Monday, February 28, 2005

Compassionate Confusion - Compassionate Confusion

Conservatives talk a lot about closing the educational achievement gap between the races and helping African-American students succeed in school.

But the plans they put forward---like school choice---are of little help when schools are drastically underfunded and the Bush administration is cutting college aid for needy students.

Here, Earl Hadley and Troy Peters of the Campaign For America's Future on why it'll take more than just dedicated families and communities to ensure educational success for all children.

Earl Hadley is the education program coordinator and Troy Peters is a policy fellow at the Campaign For America's Future.

When "compassionate conservatives" gathered at a planning meeting recently, they raised the question of how their vision would help "the least of God's children."

One participant, Pierre "Pete" du Pont, a board member of the Lynde & Harry Bradley Foundation, said, "if you gave them the opportunity to go to a school of their choice and opened the market up to creating those schools, there's a practical thing that you could do that would help the lower-income and the disadvantaged people in the country, and it would be individualism as opposed to the collectivism of the education system."

While some conservatives may genuinely believe this rhetoric, Bush's woefully underfunded education initiative increasingly makes conservative "solutions" look like cynical attempts to woo black voters.

Conservatives point to school choice as a "silver bullet," even as the Government Accounting Office reports that only 1 percent of eligible students transferred schools during the 2003-2004 academic year under No Child Left Behind Act provisions.

If Bush truly wants to address African-American children's needs, he would demand that Congress fully fund No Child Left Behind, which has been underfunded by $39 billion since enacted.

Promising choice when there are no schools to transfer to is nothing but a cruel joke.

Then there's the hoax of conservatives' appeals to black voters by talking about reducing the educational achievement gap through No Child Left Behind.

Black families---and communities at large---must rededicate themselves to making education the top priority for our children.

Earlier this year, Bush said, "We will reform the student aid system and increase college assistance for low-income students."

But despite rising college costs, the president's 2006 budget freezes or kills funding for a slew of programs that help low-income students prepare for and afford college.

Once again, conservatives don't provide the resources to match their rhetoric and "the least of God's children" are left out in the cold.

It should be the government's commitment to provide all children with quality schools in every neighborhood and an affordable college education for all who qualify.

For black families specifically, this is the basis of a covenant we must establish between parents and the government.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


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