The Civil Rights Movement of the 21st Century
by Michael Alexander
The most important battle America now faces is the battle for the freedom of parents to choose how they educate their children. Our plan is to support the qualification and passage of a statewide initiative for School Choice for the California 2020 statewide ballot. School Choice is the next great chapter in the on-going civil rights movement in America. It actually began with the Declaration of Independence; continued with our Constitution and the Bill of Rights; and, in many ways, reached its pinnacle in the Civil War (not the 1960’s as many might believe) when slavery was overturned and the 13th and 14th amendments passed. This is what laid the foundation and made possible the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. Today’s School Choice movement has steadily advanced across the United States and is currently gaining unprecedented popular support. Even though School Choice measures have been found to be constitutional, politically (that is legislatively) they have not done so well here in California. We are going to change that. It is easy to feel discouraged. But things are changing rapidly and there is hope. We are at a tipping point for School Choice in the U.S. If there is anything we have agreed upon as a society, it is that we have a duty to educate our children and they have a right to a quality education. Our children are not coming out of the public schools with a real education. We expect our young people to emerge from these failing public schools with the intellectual distance, the independence of thought, the critical judgement that they need to function in a modern society; but they don’t have the tools they need to participate in our complex, modern democracy. It makes no difference whether it’s a white child, a black child, a brown child. We as a society cannot move forward if the least among us are lingering behind and are unable to participate fully in our modern economy, unable to participate fully in our modern democracy.
The Facts: The Situation is Dire!
We spend close to $700 billion per year on K-12 public education in the United States. Even though we spend billions more dollars than we did in 1970, and with all the technological advancements and advancements in other economic areas, public education looks about the same as it did in 1970. Has the unprecedented rise in the investment of tax dollars led to the rise of any outcome for K-12 public education? The answer a resounding NO! Consider the following for the State of California:
- $60 billion is spent on education in California every year (approximately 55% of the general fund).
- LAUSD says they spend $10-12,000 per student each year, but this number is estimated to be about twice that at $20-25,000 per student because they don’t include capital costs.
- In California, spending has doubled since 1970, while we have fallen since that time from the top three ranking in the nation to fighting Mississippi for last place.
- The State says that California’s graduation rate is 80%, but they play with the numbers. Do not believe what the State says. The graduation rate was actually closer to 50%, but the State took measures that falsely pushed these numbers up:
- They introduced “Credit Recovery Courses” – content-free classes students could take on weekends or after school to make up missing credits.
- The State did away with the California High School Exit Exam (which tested 10th grade knowledge) because too many students could not pass the test.
- They do not include Middle School drop-out rates. You can’t count them as high school drop outs if they don’t go to high school.
- They don’t include drop-out rates for students who go to special schools (opportunity schools, alternative schools, etc.) for kids who are criminals or who traditional public schools cannot handle.
- Of the students who do graduate, 30% need remedial education. This means that K-12 education isn’t working. Tax payers are subsidizing 13 years of failed education, and then are subsidizing remedial education. Thus, paying for the same inferior product twice.
In Conclusion: There is Hope for Education in California
Even though things are bad, all is not lost. Why should we care about public education if we are satisfied with our public school, or if our children went to private schools and did just fine? Because it’s like having a state room on the Titanic. The entire ship is sinking. Unless we do something about public education, our country is going to go down like the Titanic and we can’t let that happen. This can turn around. Technology is the great destabilizer. We can look at industry after industry that were huge monopolies just a few years ago and are nothing now. They have all but disappeared beneath the waves. Look at one of the great monopolies, the taxi industry. Because of Uber and Lyft, this monopoly just disappeared over night. Nothing is more disruptive than Americans who seek their freedom. We’ve been the most disruptive force in the history of the world, and we remain so. The two major parties are not going to control this outcome. When the parents know what the alternatives are, the parents will control the outcomes.