Friday Freakout: Is School Choice Racist?

A misconception we have seen multiple times is the relationship between school choice and race. This veteran’s recent tweet is just one example:

If RickJarHead and others truly believe school choice supporters subscribe to Wallace’s segregationist views, perhaps choicers are not doing a good enough job promoting the research surrounding school choice’s effects on people of color and racial diversity in schools.

We are here to set the record straight with facts—something school choice critics unabashedly ignore. Here they are:

Eight empirical studies have been conducted examining school choice and racial segregation in schools. 

  • Seven found kids moved from more-segregated schools to less-segregated schools:

“Segregation Levels in Milwaukee Public Schools and the Milwaukee Voucher Program” 2006

“Segregation Levels in Cleveland Public Schools and the Cleveland Voucher Program” 2006

“The Impact of School Choice on Racial Integration in Milwaukee Private Schools” 2002

“The Impact of School Choice on Racial and Ethnic Enrollment in Milwaukee Private Schools” 1999

“The Impact of School Choice on Integration in Milwaukee Private Schools” 2000

“The Racial, Economic and Religious Context of Parental Choice in Cleveland” 1999

“An Evaluation of the Effects of D.C.’s Voucher Program on Public School Achievement and Racial Integration After One Year” 2005

One study of a specific program showed no change:

“The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program’s Effect on School Integration” 2010

Zero studies concluded kids’ choice schools are more segregated than the public schools they left.

Note: In the spirit of full disclosure, most of those studies were sponsored by pro-school choice organizations, but the data come from state Departments of Education and research methods used are completely transparent in each report. Feel free to read them for yourself. We challenge opponents to evaluate the same data and come up with a different conclusion.

As an example of school choice’s diversifying effects, this is the racial breakdown of kids participating in two of America’s largest school choice programs.

Note: Not all state Departments of Education report data on school choice users’ race.

Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program

  • 22 percent White
  • 46 percent Black
  • 29 percent Hispanic

Source: pg. 22 of Evaluation of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program

Milwaukee Parental Choice Program

  • 19 percent White
  • 57 percent Black
  • 23 percent Hispanic
  • 6 percent Other/Non-White

Source: pg. 15 of Milwaukee Parental Choice Program: Descriptive Report on Participating Schools 

And then there are the organizations and public figures who advocate for school choice because of its positive impact on minority families:

  • Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO)
  • Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (HCREO)
  • Deion Sanders, NFL analyst
  • Gabrielle Beauvais, actress
  • Gerard Robinson, former secretary of education in Virginia and Florida
  • Sen. Jabar Shumate (D), Oklahoma
  • Jalen Rose, NBA analyst
  • Rep. John DeBerry (D), Tennessee
  • Juan Williams, journalist and political analyst
  • Keshia Knight Pulliam, actress
  • Laila Ali, former professional boxer
  • Lisa Leslie, three-time WNBA MVP
  • Lou Gossett, Jr., actor
  • Peter Groff, former member of President Obama’s administration
  • Pitbull, musician
  • Roland Martin, journalist and author
  • Shakira, musician
  • Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D), Texas
  • Stephen A. Smith, ESPN analyst
  • Steven Gomez, actor
  • Vivica Fox, actress

Not only have those public figures seen the facts. They, and others, have heard the stories and met the people of color affected by school choice—students like Josiah, the Ambroses, Kaitlyn, Shawn, and Jaden.

We encourage readers to share this post—and those facts, figures, and families—with your social media networks. But, more important, talk about the issues and information presented here with supporters and opponents. Remember, school choice ensures power over children’s schooling is in the hands of parents, regardless of their skin color, and not populist politicians.