MSNBC's Ed Schultz on Thursday called Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's newly-proposed budget "racist."
Not surprisingly, Schultz believes allocating more funds to school vouchers picks on poor inner-city kids (video follows with transcript and commentary):
ED SCHULTZ, HOST: Reverend, when you hear that tax dollars would be diverted from all taxpayers to pay for private schooling -- where does that take us in your opinion?
REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: I mean, that’s the epitome of an insult, Ed. At one level, you have this governor as well as in Ohio and other states and we are talking Wisconsin here, that are talking about what they are dealing with terms of the deficit, in terms of being in the red, the unions, the teachers, everyone gives back. They say we’ll concede a lot of these things, we all will sacrifice, take collective bargaining off the table.
That’s not enough. On top of that, they now want to spend public dollars to give vouchers to private schools for kids that will never ever come from the neighborhoods that most need public education. I’m against vouchers, period. But now to come with this is an insult to add insult to injury, Ed.
SCHULTZ: Well, I’ll say it. This is a racist budget. I mean, anybody with a brain knows that those 82 percent of the kids under the poverty level are never going to go to a private school, and yet the governor wants the parents of those kids to take a portion of their tax dollars and fund private schools. I mean, it is a racist budget. You cannot get around it. It’s picking on the poor. It’s picking on the inner-city kids. How else can you read it?
To be sure, liberals typically hate the idea of vouchers for they threaten the public school monopoly left-wingers love. However, calling a budget that allocates funds to vouchers racist is absurd even for Schultz.
The New York Times in October 2000 actually advanced the idea that blacks getting school vouchers was a civil rights issue:
When Cory A. Booker talks about fixing America's school system, he invokes the words of Malcolm X: by any means necessary.
To Mr. Booker, 31, an African-American Democrat elected to the Newark City Council in 1998, that means lobbying state lawmakers for smaller classes and teacher testing. It means organizing book drives for the schools in his impoverished neighborhood, and arranging for an insurance company to create a community health clinic at one of them.
And it also means the unbridled backing of the contentious notion of giving parents vouchers financed by taxpayers to send their children to private schools.
''It's one of the last remaining major barriers to equality of opportunity in America, the fact that we have inequality of education,'' Mr. Booker explained. ''I don't necessarily want to depend on the government to educate my children -- they haven't done a good job in doing that. Only if we return power to the parents can we find a way to fix the system.''
For those recognizing the name Cory Booker, he's now the mayor of Newark. The same month he was advocating vouchers, the Hoover Institution reported:
More than two years ago, philanthropists funded pilot school voucher programs in New York City, Washington, D.C., and the Dayton metropolitan area. The programs, which helped students from low-income families attend private schools, asked the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard to evaluate them. [...]
The African American students who switched to private schools scored, on average, 3.3 national percentile ranking points higher after one year and 6.6 percentile points higher on combined reading and math tests than their counterparts in public schools. (About three-fourths of the students participating in the evaluation were African American.)
Thus after two years, the voucher intervention erased, on average, about one-third of the differences that exist nationally between the test scores of African American students and those of other students. If the trend observed over the first two years continues in subsequent years, the test gap between African Americans and whites could be eliminated for African American students who use a voucher to switch from public to private school.
Sound racist to you?
More recently, USA Today reported in May 2009:
Back when he was on the city council for the District of Columbia, attorney Kevin Chavous would occasionally run into fellow Democrats concerned about the state of the USA's urban schools.
They were open to a lot of ideas, but most Democrats have historically rejected taxpayer-supported private-school vouchers, saying they drain precious cash from needy public schools. Chavous, who served from 1992 to 2005, openly supported vouchers. [...]
While vouchers will likely never be the clarion call of Democrats, they're beginning to make inroads among a group of young black lawmakers, mayors and school officials who have split with party and teachers union orthodoxy on school reform. The group includes Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and former Washington, D.C., mayor Anthony Williams.
"You can no longer dismiss this as Catholic or right-wing," says Jeanne Allen of the Center on Education Reform, a Washington think tank.
Allen has pushed for vouchers and charter schools for decades. She originally thought the shift was generational. "But I actually think it has more to do with more-principled people who understand and have seen how badly the existing system has hurt minority kids."
While Chavous and others say vouchers are far from the perfect solution, they're worth offering to students in the nation's bleakest public schools. Urban Democrats, he says, "see that what's happening to our kids in these schools just is unacceptable — we need to look at all options."
We need to look at all options.
Indeed, and in Wisconsin, they've been doing this for decades.
What Schultz and Sharpton may not know is that the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program is the nation's first private school voucher plan and was established in 1990. At inception, MPCP allowed up to 15 percent of all students in Milwaukee Public Schools to attend private schools at public expense, and required students to come from households with incomes no greater than 1.75 times the poverty level.
As such, it was for poor students.
Something else to consider given Wisconsin's budget woes is a June 2009 report by the Heartland Institute:
A new study shows children receiving vouchers from the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program—the nation’s oldest voucher program—are getting at least as good an education as their peers in public schools, at half the cost.
“The Comprehensive Longitudinal Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program,” released by the University of Arkansas’ School Choice Demonstration Project on March 24, shows voucher students in Milwaukee are getting an education at least on par with children in Milwaukee’s public schools.
The multiyear study began in 2007. School Choice Demonstration Project Director and lead author Patrick J. Wolf notes the study’s accuracy and said his estimates of how much money the program saves taxpayers are most likely on the low side.
“We were able to examine historical enrollment patterns and the actual formulas that determine school funding in Milwaukee to get a very accurate read on the impact of the MPCP on Wisconsin taxpayers,” Wolf said.
“On the whole,” Wolf continued, “taxpayers save money because the maximum voucher amount is substantially lower than the state and local per-pupil allocation to students in public school. Federal spending on the students was not factored into the analysis, so the conclusions regarding the positive fiscal impact of the voucher program are, if anything, conservative.”
So MPCP provides basically the same level of education as Milwaukee public schools at half the price to taxpayers.
That makes it totally understandable why Schultz hates it.