Nationwide, minority parents are beginning to realize the negative impact public employee unions are having on their children, especially in the inner city. Whether public employee unions realize it or not, they are partly responsible for sabotaging the future of many African-American children who unfortunately do not have a say in where they are educated.
As a product of what is formerly known as South Central Los Angeles, I can attest to the horrid conditions which often distract and obstruct children from receiving the proper education they deserve; gang violence poverty, and urban decay are far from the conditions that our beloved civil rights heroes envisioned for our community when the doctrine of “separate but equal” was struck down in 1964. However, neither did they envision a point where these circumstances would be used as a scapegoat to keep minority students trapped in a failing public school system with teachers who aren’t vested in their future.
What our past leaders did envision however, is that no matter the circumstance, the black community with all its resilience would continue to fight for a better education and for a better future. Today, the fight has manifested itself in the form of better-equipped charter schools to teach African-American children. You know, the ones you send your children to when the public school system has failed your child over and over again?
Much to their surprise, current African-American community leaders aren’t fighting against racist and callous old white men who are out of touch with reality. Rather, the fight is against public employee unions, the very people who claim to have our best interests at heart. For years, there have been calls by many to establish some sort of connection between student performance and teacher salary. Those calls have fallen on deaf ears, largely because public employee unions and teachers claim that there are so many mitigating circumstances affecting pupil performance, any attempt to create a definitive link is spurious.
One thing is for certain. The public school system is failing minority students, and the parents are calling for change. Consider the situation in Compton California earlier this year: A parent union decided it wanted to take advantage of California’s parent trigger law, a law designed to empower parents to transform a failing public school into a charter school, or replace the current staff and provide new leadership, or the opportunity to replace principal with a qualified and results proven leader. The result? The Compton school board unanimously rejected the parent union for what it deemed were a lack of verifiable signatures on the parent trigger petition, even though it was quite clear what the community wanted.
More recently, charter school parents in New York City staged a protest to voice their displeasure with a lawsuit brought against the New York City Department of Education by the United Federation of Teachers and the NAACP. If the lawsuit is successful, it would prevent enrollment or re-enrollment in 17 charter schools and stop the closure of 22 public schools. By no means should the battle for a better education be this prolific. Critics often dismiss the success of charter schools by suggesting that charter schools are merely “skimming” the “good” children from public schools, leaving the public schools with all the troublesome and problematic children. This argument conveniently ignores charter schools such as Urban Prep Academy in Chicago and The SEED School in Washington D.C., which are effectively educating low-income, so-called “challenged” youth and placing them in colleges and universities across the U.S. Parents are struggling to place their children in charters because they want their children to get the best education possible.
Reflect on this for a second if you will: charter schools are succeeding with the same or lower funding as their traditional counterparts, but are held to a higher standard set forth in their charter. The charter is designed to hold these schools accountable so they will be closed if they fail their students. The charter is approved by the local school board, which is accountable to the voters.
Our children don’t owe anything to public employee unions and neither should they be held as political collateral in a struggle to preserve bureaucracy; their debt was paid by those who paved the way for them to have access to a brighter future.