The New Uncle Toms Force Black Kids to Suffer in the Sunshine State, by Eddie Huff

The Florida Supreme Court recently outlawed the Sunshine State’s program to allow parents to move their kids from poor-quality local public schools and send them to other, better public schools and select private schools. Reflecting on this action, I can’t help thinking of the old adage, “With friends like these, who needs enemies?”

According to the Miami Herald: “The Florida Supreme Court threw out the state’s voucher system that allows some children to attend private schools at taxpayer expense, saying Thursday that it violates the state constitution’s requirement of a uniform system of free public schools.” Sounds justified, doesn’t it? But there is one problem. If a uniform system of free public schools existed, there would be no need for vouchers.

The whole reason the school choice/voucher issue is an issue to begin with is that there is a great disparity in the quality of schools in the public school system in Florida and across our nation.

I can’t help but be amazed at how incredibly ignorant the arguments against voucher sound. But I wonder if school choice opponents are really as ignorant as they sound or if they are just being blatantly deceptive? One must remember that the primary opposition to school choice is the teachers’ unions.

Consider, for example, the comments of Ron Meyer, the lead attorney for those opposing the Florida Opportunity Scholarship Program (FOS). He told the Herald that the court’s decision was a victory for public schools across the state and the nation. “It means that Florida’s taxpayers will not be forced to pay for schools which are unaccountable,” Meyer decreed.

Note that the teachers’ union lawyer is claiming victory for the schools. Note that there is no mention about the concerns of the students or the parents whose kids are held as virtual slaves to the government school system.

Meyer claims that the decision means tax money will no longer pay for unaccountable schools. Who is he trying to fool? That is exactly what has been happening, and is the reason parents want a choice in where to send their kids. Now it will continue to happen without a check. Free from the competition of better public schools and the option of private schools, no teacher or administrator in a public school that fails its community will feel the need to fix its problems because they aren’t accountable to anyone except the teacher unions.

Maintaining this status quo, no matter how much it may hurt the students, is how we got where we are today.

Right now, the Florida Supreme Court’s decision only affects the 700 children from poor homes who had been attending mostly black schools that had been determined to be providing substandard teaching. These are the students who had received the FOS vouchers. These students now will be forced back onto the teachers’ union’s public education plantation.

The decision does not now affect the over 30,000 other Florida students who enjoy corporate-funded vouchers due to their low-income status or physical disability, but there are some who fear that these programs may be next on the union’s agenda.

Now, my inquisitive mind asks why one program can be unconstitutional while another is not? I will give you a hint. The FOS vouchers allowed children to go to schools where they may hear God mentioned.

Forcing kids to stay in failing schools for no good reason other than to appease the status quo smacks of segregation. Although the Florida Supreme Court’s decision was handed down in January of 2006, it sounds like something more appropriate to the era of Jim Crow.

The New Uncle Toms, the unrepentant black liberal apologists, owe the rest of us an explanation. Why are our children seemingly condemned to substandard schools to mollify a special interest? The discussion at hand should be when – and not if – our community will rise up in anger, saying enough is enough and demanding change and a choice.

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Eddie Huff is a member of the National Advisory Council of the black leadership network Project 21. Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21 or the National Center for Public Policy Research.

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