For many of us who follow education progress and reform in Alaska and the other states, we have noted that many organizations support the status quo. Why is that? Let’s take a look at the NAACP in Alaska.
One would think that the NAACP would support what is best for minority children, not what is best for the status quo education system which in many cases has failed minority students. Does the NAACP-AK even know how poorly our Anchorage neighborhood schools are doing in those areas with a high minority population? Probably not. The Anchorage schools with a large minority student population are Airport Heights Elementary, Bartlett HS, Clark MS, East HS, Begich MS, and William Tyson Elementary. Under the No Child Left Behind law, all these schools performed at the lowest rating level (AYP Level 5). Was the NAACP asking the school district why these schools were so poorly serving its population? Did the NAACP demand answers from the school Board? Why wasn’t the NAACP representing parents and students? Surely, the NAACP-AK must know that the most effective way for all children to climb the economic ladder is through a great education.
Across this country it appears as if the NAACP is joined at the hip with the NEA and AFT teacher unions. In most every state, the NAACP joins forces with the teacher unions to defeat meaningful education reform, reform which would mostly benefit its minority population. The NAACP-AK even supported the NEA-AK in fighting for more charter schools. Is this more about power instead of what is the right thing to do for the kids? It must be.
The NAACP-AK has even fought the efforts to remove the bigoted Blaine language from the Alaska Constitution. In the late 1800s, Congressman James Blaine was running for president and played on the fears of those who were anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic and anti-Irish. These fears arose from the large number of Irish Catholics who had immigrated to this country due to the potato famine. Many Protestants feared the growth of Catholic schools and the diminishing of the public (actually Protestant at that time) schools. So Mr. Blaine offered an amendment to the U.S. Constitution which failed. He then proposed a law which would require all future states to have Blaine amendment language in their constitutions. That is why Alaska and most other states have this language in their constitutions today.
Here is what happened in Oregon in 1922-Compulsory Public School
In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan used the Blaine language in the Oregon Constitution to fight for the closing of all private schools in Oregon. And they were successful! The KKK wanted a standardized curriculum in all schools; thus, there could only be public schools which would educate all children in an “American” way. They successfully got legislation passed–the Compulsory School Bill (above), a 1922 initiative that required all children between the ages of eight and sixteen to attend public schools. This bill enabled the State of Oregon to close all non-public schools. Although voters approved the measure 115,506 to 103,685, the state supreme court declared the law unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ruling in 1925.
We have many successful examples of school choice programs for minority and low income children today. One of the most successful is the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program. This program allows those students whose families are either eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or make no more than 185% of the federal poverty level to get a voucher for only 40% of the average DC per student funding. They can only use these vouchers to attend a private school in the DC area. In 2014, there were more than 1,600 students who took these vouchers and opted out of the public school system.
Why is the NAACP-AK on the wrong side of the debate? Wouldn’t real education reform benefit minority students across Alaska? Why doesn’t the NAACP-AK support what’s best for all Alaskan children and strengthen the rungs on the economic ladder so minority kids can achieve the American dream? As it stands today, many minority students cannot even reach the first rung on the ladder. It must be power and money.
For a short video on the bigoted history of the Blaine amendment and its effect on education, go here.
There are many other school choice programs which serve mostly minority and special education students. For a complete list, go to www.edchoice.org.