Today is Thomas Sowell’s 90th birthday. The man is a living legend.
And I also recommend this Mark Perry column, which contains 15 of Sowell’s most insightful quotes, as well as two videos of Sowell in action.
Sowell continues to amaze with prodigious productivity. His 56th book, Charter Schools and Their Enemies, goes on sale today.
And he summarizes some of his arguments on that issue in this recent column in the Wall Street Journal.
New York’s charter school students are predominantly black and Hispanic, and live in low-income neighborhoods. In 2019, most students in the city’s public schools failed to pass the statewide tests in mathematics and English. But most of the city’s charter school students passed in both subjects. Such charter school results undermine theories of genetic determinism, claims of cultural bias in the tests… In 2013, a higher percentage of the fifth-graders in a Harlem charter school passed the mathematics test than any other public school fifth-graders in the entire state of New York. …In a number of low-income minority communities in New York City, charter school classes and classes in traditional public schools are held in the same buildings, serving the same communities. Some of the contrasts are almost unbelievable. In 28 classes in these buildings, fewer than 10% of the students reached the “proficient” level on statewide tests. All 28 classes were in traditional public schools. All charter school classes at the same grade levels in the same buildings did better—including six grade levels where the charter school majorities reaching the “proficient” level ranged from 81% to 100%.
Sounds like great news.
But there’s a dark lining to this cloud.
Competition from charter schools is an existential threat to traditional public schools in low-income minority communities… Teachers unions and traditional public school administrators have every reason to fear charter schools. In 2019 there were more than 50,000 New York City students on waiting lists to transfer into charter schools. …Among the ways of blocking students from transferring into charter schools is preventing charter schools from getting enough classrooms to put them in. …In cities across the country, public school officials are blocking charter schools from using school buildings that have been vacant for years to prevent transfers into charter schools from taking place. …In some places, vacant school buildings have been demolished, making sure no charter schools can use them. …anti-charter-school tactics by public school officials, politicians and teachers unions call into question pious statements by them that what they are doing is “for the sake of the children.” …their actions show repeatedly that protecting their own turf from the competition of charter schools is their top priority.
This is disgusting.
Union bosses, education bureaucrats, and captive politicians are sacrificing the hopes and dreams of minority children in order to preserve their monopoly system.
Even the NAACP has chosen to put leftist ideology above the best interest of black kids.
Here’s some data on school enrollment in New York City and the rest of the state. As you can see, most whites have escaped the NYC government system, with more than 50 percent in private schools. For many black families, though, their only affordable option is charters, and 20 percent of black kids are benefiting from this possibility.
To see the chart, click here.
Sadly, expanding charters is very difficult because of teacher unions and their political allies. They benefit if they keep kids trapped in a crummy system.
Needless to say, this also explains why it is so difficult to get school choice, which is an even better option.
P.S. If you want to learn more about school choice, I recommend this video.