Obama’s Jim Crow Education System

Arnold Ahlert is a former NY Post op-ed columnist currently contributing to JewishWorldReview.com, HumanEvents.com and CanadaFreePress.com. He may be reached at atahlert@comcast.net.


students-thumb-640xauto-3812In his speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s march on Washington, President Obama hypocritically bemoaned the current state of education, saying that many Americans face a “fortress of substandard schools and diminished prospects.” He claimed that such schools were “underfunded” and that every child has a “right … to get an education that stirs the mind and captures the spirit and prepares them for the world that awaits them.” However, it is the Obama administration that has been instrumental in depriving poor, especially minority, children from the “right” to a quality education with its campaign to eradicate school vouchers. Just recently, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed suit in New Orleans federal court to prevent Louisiana from implementing a voucher program at public schools that remains under federal desegregation orders.

According to the DOJ, the 570 students who received the vouchers for the 2012-2013 school year “impeded the desegregation process,” and therefore vouchers for 2014-15 school year must be blocked. The great irony here is that 90 percent of the children who used the vouchers to get themselves a better education are black Americans. Yet the DOJ remains concerned that 10 percent of the 2012-2013 voucher recipients came from schools that remain under desegregation orders written a half-century ago. In their court petition, the DOJ insists that some of the voucher recipients were “in the racial minority at the public school they attended before receiving the voucher.” As the Wall Street Journal wryly notes, the DOJ “is claiming that the voucher program may be illegal because minority kids made their failing public schools more white by leaving those schools to go to better private schools.”

Despite that reality, the DOJ claims that “the loss of students through the voucher program reversed much of the progress made toward integration.” Yet the actual number of students involved in the two examples cited by the DOJ itself reveals the fatuousness of that assertion. At Celilia Primary School in St. Martin Parish District, all of six black children transferred to voucher schools. Prior to the transfer, 30.1 percent of the student body was black. The District itself is 46.5 percent black. Yet the DOJ further asserted that the voucher program increased the difference in the racial composition between the school and the District, “reinforcing the school’s racial identity as a white school in a predominantly black school district.” How the DOJ maintains that a District less than half black is “predominantly” black is impossible to fathom.

The DOJ’s logic is equally twisted with regard to Independence Elementary School in Tangipahoa Parish District, where a grand total of five white students transferred to voucher schools. The school’s enrollment is 61.5 percent black in a District that is 47.5 percent black. Thus the school’s racial identity was already predominantly black. Yet the DOJ insists the loss of those five students “increased its black student percentage away from the district percentage, again reinforcing the identity of the school as a black school.”

The Louisiana Scholarship Program that established the voucher system was passed in 2012. It is a state-wide initiative guaranteeing a voucher to students from families with incomes below 250 percent of poverty who attend public schools graded C, D or F. In other words, it is designed to give poor families with children trapped in lousy schools a choice. In this particular case, that choice is for an overwhelmingly black American recipient base. Those would be very same black American children whose counterparts are trapped in some of the worst schools in the nation, most of which are in big cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Those are also cities where Democrats are running the show, and where their continuing alliance with education unions virtually ensures the miserable status quo will remain intact.

According to the Wall Street Journal, which cited confirmation by sources in Louisiana, the same dynamic is in play in the Pelican State. “It’s about helping the teachers union repeal the voucher law by any legal means, and the segregation gambit is the last one available,” the paper states. “Justice gives this strategy away when it claims ‘jurisdiction over Louisiana’ even for vouchers for students in districts without desegregation orders.”

This is not the Obama administration’s first effort to deny educational opportunities to minority children trapped in lousy schools. In his 2013 budget, Obama zeroed out funding for the highly successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program that served more than 1,600 minority students in the nation’s capital. The program, effectively killed in 2009 by the Democrat-controlled Congress, had been revived in 2011 when House Speaker John Boehner got it restored during heated budget negotiations with President Obama. It was subsequently zeroed out, despite the reality that students who used the vouchers to attend private schools had a 91 percent graduation rate, compared to the dismal 55 percent in Washington’s public school system. Even its cost was a bargain. Each voucher was worth $8000, far less than the $18,000 per child spent by D.C. Public Schools.

Money was the impetus behind multiple lawsuits attempting to thwart the use of vouchers in Louisiana, culminating in a 2012 ruling by the Louisiana Supreme Court declaring that Governor Bobby Jindal’s method of funding the program was unconstitutional. The Court decided that per-pupil allocation, called the minimum foundation program (MFP), must go to public schools. Jindal refused to be thwarted, coming up $40 million from other public resources to cover the tab for this school year’s nearly 8,000 recipients.

Thus, it is no surprise that Jindal is incensed by the DOJ’s latest effort. ”After generations of being denied a choice, parents finally can choose a school for their child, but now the federal government is stepping in to prevent parents from exercising this right. Shame on them,” he said. ”Parents should have the ability to decide where to send their child to school.”

Apparently not if it threatens a Democratic Party funding source. According to OpenSecrets.com, a website that tracks campaign financing by special interest groups, between 1989 and 2012, the fourth largest campaign contributor in the nation has been the National Education Association (NEA), which has fattened the coffers of politicians by more than $53 million. Sixty-two percent of those contributions went to Democrats, compared to just 4 percent for Republicans. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) came in at number ten, contributing more than $37 million to elected officials, 88 percent of which went to Democrats — and zero percent went to Republicans.

Thus the inevitable reality emerges: anything that threatens union leverage, even if it mortgages the future of millions of students around the nation, must be fought tooth and nail. It must be fought even as the Journal notes that seven out of eight national studies reveal vouchers actually enhance racial integration.

Under the current lawsuit, the Louisiana would be barred from assigning students in 34 school systems to private schools unless a federal judge agreed to it.  Theoretically that could happen as early as next year. Yet Brian Blackwell, attorney for the Louisiana Association of Educators, indicated that the time, effort and evidence needed to persuade judges could take a lot longer.

Furthermore, the judge assigned to the case is problematic. In November 2012, Judge Ivan Lemelle ruled that elements of Jindal’s educational reform package were unconstitutional, claiming they violated the desegregation agreement of Tangipahoa Parish, because the money that would have been spent on vouchers would have impeded their ability to pay for programs necessary to comply with federal desegregation orders. This puts the federal government in the position of being able to effectively kill any voucher system, simply by forcing the state to incur the costs necessary to achieve Washington’s vision of desegregation. Louisiana has appealed the ruling, which is currently pending.

State Education Superintendent John White notes the absurdity of the DOJ’s stance, contending that “it’s a little ridiculous” to argue that students’ departure to voucher schools makes their home school systems less white, even as the rules that were initially conceived to combat racism are now being used to trap black children in failing schools. In other words, Eric Holder and the DOJ are essentially pursuing same kind of Jim Crow laws that were designed to achieve the same purpose, even as they falsely promoted the idea that schools in America would be “separate but equal.” For Holder and the DOJ, as long as some federal notion of desegregation can be pursued under the banner of racial equality, it is irrelevant that such equality amounts to the equality of misery and deprivation. The very same misery and deprivation desegregation was designed to alleviate for millions of black Americans.

As for the students themselves, they remain nothing more than pawns beholden to a Democrat-union alliance whose promises of educational “reform” ring as hollow today as when they first made them more than 50 years ago. There is no other alliance in the nation that could produce a half-century of consistent failure and remain as viable. Perhaps one day, black Americans will realize that an inferior education leading to government dependency is one of the primary ways Democrats, who promote such dependency, maintain their power base. Until then, black American families will continue to have their children trapped in the hellholes many public schools have become.

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  • DogmaelJones1

    The ideal solution is simply to get the government out of education, on all levels, from public schools to funding college education. That’s the only solution.

    • myrna652

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      • TW of G 58

        knock off the plug b***sh** and read the article… dum-dum!

    • WW4

      I think the ONLY thing the federal gov’t could do well in this case is in writing checks. Otherwise, I agree they should stay away.

      I don’t know that government should stay out of the funding, but I do find it amazing that a few of our local state universities’ tuition is the same as what many private universities were 12 years ago (@ $24,000/yr). So what has been “saved” by our tax contributions? That is still a massive amount for most families to cough up. And with private tuition going well beyond that, the majority of the middle class is left out. Scholarships these days don’t go as far as they used to. If someone can come up with a better funding model I’m all for it.

  • Anamah

    The man has a remarkable ability to criticize the do, and the haves…expressing overflowing fury against his own acts of government as if its were product of others…
    Notable his cleavage in front of the cameras, faking being an outsider fighting against overwhelming power of (his) government. A case for psychiatry study!

    Mr Obama is unable to assume his role and take responsibility for anything.

    He, as good charlatan strip hooks to fish for emotional votes…
    He should receive an Oscar for his performance as a charlatan… but as president he is no more than an empty suit.

    Incredible waste for such great Constitutional Republic.

  • Nowhereman

    I need a diagram to explain those paragraphs about the black student leaving and thereby making the school more segregated or less diverse or whatever. We’re always making fun of liberals for their pedantic insanity, but when it really comes down to it, they’re very good at mental Twister. Keeping black students in bad schools for diversity’s sake! Ingenious!

    • kid_you_not

      The Black students make it a bad school. No matter where they are, that will be the case. So really it is about keeping the WHITE kids in bad schools for the sake of diversity.

      • Gee

        It’s not the color of the skin that is the problem. Israel just finished bringing the last of the Ethiopian Jews to Israel. The first nation that went to Africa to bring black people to a country as equal citizens in the history of the world.

        They are some of the best students in Israeli schools and a huge benefit to the country.

        And yes we do have racists that complain – thank goodness that is all they do. Our Arab citizens really hate them

  • adamjw2

    There’s only one thing to understand about the Left in order to make sense of their stance on issues like this: Leftists don’t look at results. They only care about the theory behind their stance. In other words, if an idea sounds good to them, they defend it at all costs, no matter what the results of the idea are.

  • http://www.clarespark.com/ Clare Spark

    Vouchers not the only tool available to parents: see http://clarespark.com/2013/05/26/eva-moskowitz-and-the-charter-school-movement/. But it is true that teachers unions are the chief obstacle to the improvement of school choice and inner city education decay. “Eva Moskowitz and the charter school movement.”

    • kid_you_not

      Hey, another -witz name trying to push “diversity” (euphemism for genocide of Whites.) No thanks. Until I see all the “-witz” names supporting a return of the Palestinians. See, they don’t want any “diversity” for themselves.

  • Gee

    The President loves Jim Crow laws – he has even exported them to countries without any racial problems. According to the President not only should Jews not be able to build in their own capital – they should not be allowed to buy homes in areas that he wants to give to Arab terrorists.

    The most racist President in the history of the United States is the current one

    • TW of G 58

      totally agreed!

    • American1969

      ***APPLAUSE!***

  • kid_you_not

    What stupidity. Move these nascent thugs in to private schools and you just ruin the private schools. Like adding dirty water to clean water. The very fact this is wrapped up in concern-trolling cinches it. I’m a little sick of every political action or thought judged by how it affects Black or other non-Whites. If you are engaging in that you are not on our side. Same rhetoric we hear opposing Voter ID and supporting Amnesty.

    Time for you to stop pretending White people are not some sort of invisible citizen class that doesn’t count except to pay all, effectively, of the taxes.

  • quillerm

    We are dumping millions more into our schools than any Nation on Earth with poor results. It is’t race, it’s commitment by parents who give a damn. The same people who scream Jim Crow and hate vouchers probably haven’t been to a teachers meeting in decades. They want government to raise their children, and make them succeed. It has to come from family, that is the key motivator. Union Bosses running our schools has wasted millions and ended up with cheating scandals across the Nation.

    • kid_you_not

      “It is’t race, it’s commitment by parents who give a damn. ”

      Why is that not race? Seems to be a problem worldwide with Blacks. That is quite a “keeping the Black man down” conspiracy.

  • Anamah

    Democratic Party is the new mafia and still keep using its law of Jim Crow to fight for the American struggle.

    Is not so easy to destroy America… but with the Department of Education help victory may be in the next corner.

  • American1969

    How in the hell can Eric Holder scold white Americans about racism and then turn around and do this? And if public schools are so fantastic, how about if the elitist a*holes take THEIR children and grandchildren out of private schools and put them there? Either put your money where your mouth is, or allow the voucher programs!