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Racial trade-offs

Racial trade-offs

Trade-offs apply to our economic lives, as well as our political lives. That means getting more of one thing requires giving up something else. Let’s look at some examples.

Black congressmen and black public officials in general, including Barack Obama, always side with teachers unions in their opposition to educational vouchers, tuition tax credits, charter schools and other measures that would allow black parents to take their children out of failing public schools. Most black politicians and many black professionals take the position of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who is on record as saying, “We shouldn’t abandon the public schools.”

Taking such a political stance is understandable because black congressmen and other black elected officials are part of a coalition. As such, they are expected to vote for things that other coalition members want in order that those coalition members vote for things that black politicians want. There’s no question that these black public officials are getting something in return for their support of teachers unions and others who benefit from the educational status quo. The question not addressed by black people is whether what black politicians are getting for their support of a failed educational system is worth the sacrifice of whole generations of black youngsters, educationally handicapping them and making many virtually useless in the high-tech world of the 21st century.

Though many black politicians mouth that we should fix, not abandon, public schools, they themselves have abandoned public schools. They see their children as too precious to be sacrificed in the name of public education. While living in Chicago, Barack Obama sent his daughters to the prestigious University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. When he moved to Washington, President Obama enrolled his daughters in the prestigious Sidwell Friends School. According to a report by The Heritage Foundation, “exactly 52 percent of Congressional Black Caucus members and 38 percent of Congressional Hispanic Caucus members sent at least one child to private school.” Overall, only 6 percent of black students attend private school.

It’s not just black politicians who fight tooth and nail against parental school choice and have their children in private schools. When President Obama’s White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel resigned and became mayor of Chicago, he did not enroll his children in the Windy City’s public schools. He enrolled his son and two daughters in the University of Chicago Lab Schools. And members of Congress, regardless of race, are three to four times likelier than the public to send their children to private schools.

According to a 2004 Thomas B. Fordham Institute study, more than 1 in 5 public school teachers sent their children to private schools. In some cities, the figure is much higher. In Philadelphia, 44 percent of the teachers put their children in private schools; in Cincinnati, it’s 41 percent, and Chicago (39 percent) and Rochester, N.Y. (38 percent), also have high figures. In the San Francisco-Oakland area, 34 percent of public school teachers enroll their children in private schools, and in New York City, it’s 33 percent.

Only 11 percent of all parents enroll their children in private schools. The fact that so many public school teachers enroll their own children in private schools ought to raise questions. After all, what would you think, after having accepted a dinner invitation, if you discovered that the owner, chef, waiters and busboys at the restaurant to which you were being taken don’t eat there? That would suggest they have some inside information from which you might benefit.

I don’t think anything that black politicians get from the NEA, the AFT, the NAACP (many members are teachers), the National Urban League or others who have a vested financial interest in a failed educational system is worth committing whole generations of black youngsters to educational mediocrity. The prospects for a change are not good, particularly in light of the new fact that the NAACP is being wooed to join the AFL-CIO.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. 

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  • Altosackbuteer

    When I worked at the FDA laboratory in Winchester, MA, one of my colleagues was a Black lady who was married to a Black man who was actually a headmaster at one of Boston’s intermediate schools.

    They sent their only son to the local Catholic school.

    A lot of my colleagues talked behind this colleague’s back, accusing her (though never to her face) of hypocrisy, for drawing an income from a school system they obviously didn’t support.

    I once talked about this with her. I asked her why she did this. And she said, it’s difficult enough to find a public school with decent academic standards. But even if she could find such a place, she’d STILL not want to send her son there because she’d be afraid he’d lose his soul there.

  • Art76

    Good column Walter. Parents of all races universally want their kids to get a good education. So it would be good if they would get off their duff and ask their local congressman/senator whether they are for vouchers. Because vouchers empower parents to do what they perceive to be best for their kids. Free choice. Whats wrong with that? —– PS, I have no doubt that if their politician turns out to be a Democrat, they will find that said politician is against vouchers (and perhaps sending his/her own kids to private school that most of us cant afford).

  • GeorgeStGeorge

    I don’t know all the details, but like our Fearless Leader, I’ll share my opinion. The fact that the man had a job at a public school doesn’t mean he thinks public schools are better than private schools. I suspect that he would have preferred to be headmaster at the Catholic school, but is he not going to work, just because he couldn’t work at the Catholic school? Hopefully, he was doing his best to improve the quality of education at the public school.

  • Dustoff

    If that doesn’t say it all

  • Borghesius

    When I went to Catholic Schools, there were two types of teachers: short timers, who were there to build up experience until they could move up to jobs with more salary and benefits at public schools, and long timers, who were dedicated to the school and the kids.

    I too hope that teachers do their best to improve quality where they are. But the public school system is so massive and immovable it may just wear them down.

  • Borghesius

    Now you can lose your soul at Catholic Schools too, or have it stolen while you think everything is fine.

  • Altosackbuteer

    What can I say? Of course you’re right. Just hang around Mary Ann’s, a watering hole at Cleveland Circle a short walk from the nominall Catholic and Jesuit Boston College campus, and you’ll see that principle in action

    I think my colleague’s son has a much better shot of surviving school years at the Catholic school. But it’s far from guaranteed.

  • Altosackbuteer

    I’m confident he did what he could, which likely wasn’t very much.

  • pgp62

    Excellent article, what more do you need to say than the chef will not eat at the restaurant he cooks in. Anyone finding that out would not even go into that restaurant. If that chef was forced to eat there, I bet the food would improve. If Rahm Emmanuel’s children were forced to go to Chicago public schools, those would improve also.

  • warrant4

    I spent almost three decades active duty military. Since then I have taught in the public schools. Yes, its a train wreck and many are not even trying to fix it.
    But you know, when I was forward deployed into a hostile environment while on active duty, nobody expected me to bring my family along. And because I am willing to work hard trying to save as much as possible within public education does not obligate me to send anyone there as a student.
    Personnally, I think the best bet right now is home schooling. Even those private schools everyone is so fond of, and even the “good” award winning public schools ALL have a LOT of hidden problems, issues, and dangers.

  • 1tomritter1

    What is the tenth plank of The Communist Manifesto?

  • ConservativeJoe

    1tomritter1, Um…… That would be free public education for all children.

    But what’s your point?

    America also promoted free public education for all children.

    The important thing is what is taught, under what circumstances it is taught and how well the teachers do their jobs. The inner city schools in America’s large cities are an absolute disgrace! They are little more than day care centers that can’t even offer a safe environment.

    And the solution? Sadly, the solution is in the hands of the American public. I say sadly because the public is much more focused on other aspects of our society. They elect representatives that promise this or that but public schooling considerations are very far down on the list of voter concerns.

    The solution for individual families? Even worse prospects. Few inner city families have the financial resources to move to the school districts that show better scholastic results. It’s so bad that some parents say good by in the morning and later learn that their son or daughter was severely injured or even killed during the day.
    Learn? They are lucky to merely survive!

    None of this is a secret, especially to the inner city residents. The question is why do they even bother having children when they know that they can not provide for their well-being while they are struggling to reach adulthood. If you think that only an elitist would pose such a question, try to answer it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aemoreira81 aemoreira81

    I can tell you why they’re sending their children to private schools…it’s largely the fault of the public school students. In many cases, the troublemakers are like bad prion proteins…not only are they bad, but they seek to turn good pupils into bad ones just like them. Unless they are isolated into special schools that deal just with troublemakers, this problem will perpetuate.

    It’s not worth the risk. But the system per se isn’t as much a problem as much as its users are. The “chef at the restaurant” is different because he solely determines the quality of the product, unlike a purveyor of education, where the quality is determined by its users.

  • smash44

    Does the pathetic, blatant hypocrisy of the cowardly left ever surprise anybody?

  • http://www.facebook.com/aemoreira81 aemoreira81

    It would be hypocrisy if the problem were actually the fault of the teachers or their unions. But by and large, it’s a student problem.

  • 1tomritter1

    So the solution is to abolish the public schools, but not through politics nor the courts.

    Stay tuned!

  • JenniferP

    Why should only the black kids benefit? My kids were failed by the public school system. I have been self employed for 25 years, so private was out of the question. We need to simply close the federal D of Education, and stop overtaxing the working people so they have money left to make their own choices, or change it all to a voucher system Every child gets a voucher, let the family choose its school(s)


    That’s sarcasm…right? I mean, it’s gotta be ’cause if not… well then I’m speechless.


    No, it is MANDATORY public education; as long as we have private schools and homeschooling, there is still hope.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aemoreira81 aemoreira81

    It’s not sarcasm. The students are the ones who are disrupting their own learning environment in schools that are dysfunctional.


    Certainly that is a big problem. But you think that teachers who don’t teach but instead indoctrinate Marxist propaganda are not a problem? Or teachers who don’t have mastery of their subject matter? Or teaching that focuses on self-esteem rather than achievement?

  • abc2xyz

    According to a 2004 Thomas B. Fordham Institute study, more than 1 in 5
    public school teachers sent their children to private schools. In some
    cities, the figure is much higher. In Philadelphia, 44 percent of the
    teachers put their children in private schools; in Cincinnati, it’s 41
    percent, and Chicago (39 percent) and Rochester, N.Y. (38 percent), also
    have high figures. In the San Francisco-Oakland area, 34 percent of
    public school teachers enroll their children in private schools, and in
    New York City, it’s 33 percent.
    Why ?

    It seems that the public school teachers know very well the “quality” of their teaching . So they pay some moneys to avoid blaming themselves for low quality of the education they provide .

  • Thomas Aquinas

    Liberals’ war against Western civilization uses three main attack vectors:-Attacking the family-Attacking private property-Attacking Christianity

  • terry1956

    Average spending on K to 12 government schools in the US is around 11,000 a year.
    If parents were offered a voucher for the full amount but allowed to put any savings into a trust fund that the child could start to use after they turned 19 or they could choose any year even their 72nd birthday or pass it on to their children or grandchildren..
    If the average savings per year was 7,000 for 13 years that would be a total principle of 91,000 dollars.
    If the trust fund made no return from age 5 to 18 but averaged 6% a year afterwards if the 18 year old started using the return as income of 5460 a year and if he takes a wife who is 19 also the couple would have a 10,920 dollar a year income for life plus be able to pass on the principle to their heirs.
    If the couple waits until they are 31 the trust fund total for the two would have doubled to 364,000 and 6% of that would give a return of 21,840 a year.
    wait until they are 43 and the couples trust fund will be 728,000 and 6% would give a income of 43,680 a year.
    wait until they are 55 and the couples trust fund will be 1.456 million and 6% would give a 87,360 dollar annual income.
    wait until they are 67 ( the social security age) the trust fund would be 2.912 million dollars and 6% of that would be 174,720 a year which would almost than three and a half times what they would get from federal government social security and medicare if the two each got the average federal amount of 25,000 a year each

  • terry1956

    What was wrong with the other 80% of teachers with children?
    To dumb to know quality or to lazy to care?

  • terry1956

    the goal is to eliminate federal and UN involvement in education.
    If you live or have family in Tennessee we can talk about it further otherwise its none of your business.
    separation of school and state is a great idea but there is no need to make it national or ” universal” policy, one size does not fit all except in Soviet shoe factories which are history.

  • terry1956

    Yes and government vouchers could be the down fall of private and home schools, especially if they come in whole or even part from the federal government because then you can not vote with your feet and stay in America.
    feet voting is very important, the easier it is the better.

  • Socialism is Organized Evil

    Those who seize the opportunities afforded by liberty also have a moral obligation to address directly resulting negative consequences.

  • Defend Liberty

    Since our minds cannot predict their own future, civilization’s advance consists of learning from our mistakes, taking into account the lessons of accidents, and making the most of the fleeting circumstances we are faced with.