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Students trapped in failing schools can be freed by encouraging competition among public schools through the provision of vouchers and "Tax Credit Scholarships," according to the black leadership network Project 21 in the latest installment of its "Blueprint for a Better Deal for Black America."
Project 21 suggests funding these programs by reducing funding for schools failing to meet certain minimum academic standards and by replacing the "Presidential Campaign Fund" tax form check-off with one supporting needs-based educational support.
Education is considered the key to upward mobility, yet many black students remain trapped in failing schools, according to the group.
"Metrics measuring the preparedness of America's K-12 public school students are in free fall," said Project 21 Co-Chairman Stacy Washington, a former elected member and officer of the Ladue (Missouri) Board of Education and a nationally-syndicated talk radio host on the American Family Radio and Urban Family Talk networks. "Each year, fewer students are moving on to the next grade at a proficient or advanced level. Union power and a lack of viable competition is causing this downward spiral, and public school administrators know there's often no way out for dissatisfied parents."
Black high school graduation rates lag behind every other population group, according tofederal data. Just 76.4% of blacks earned high school diplomas in 2016 compared with 79.3% of Hispanics and 88.3% of whites. Black students are also reportedly lagging in ACT and SAT scores – key benchmarks for college readiness. Black students are also significantly less likely to enroll in Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate courses, attend schools that offer them or receive AP exam grades that allow them to earn college credit, according to Education Trust.
Many black families find themselves trapped in low-performing schools because they can't afford private school tuition or to move to areas where schools are better, according to Project 21 members.
"Project 21's common-sense policy recommendations will rectify a glaring lack of options for millions of children trapped in failing schools across the country," said Washington. "National educational policy should mandate that zip codes and economic status no longer shackle our bright, potential-laden children in failing schools."
There are five specific proposals in Project 21's Blueprint designed to give black students and their families a better deal by offering increased educational opportunities:
"Black students deserve an elementary education setting them up to succeed in college or a career. With so many underperforming public schools, choice provides parents with options while challenging schools to do better," said Project 21 member Marie Fischer-Wyrick, a nonpartisan candidate for the Frederick County (Maryland) school board. "My sister and I are proof. In the Deep South during the 1970s, our parents had a rare chance to choose a school other than the one in our neighborhood. They chose an elementary school run with the help of a local college. It gave us opportunities we could never have received otherwise. We went on to attend New York University and College of the Holy Cross, respectively. I'm not sure we could have done that without a choice."
Every Monday between now and July 7, Project 21 will continue to release reform recommendations from its "Blueprint for a Better Deal for Black America" covering a specific subject area. The tentative remaining release schedule is as follows:
Project 21 leaders have been briefing key staff at the White House and with congressional leadership about the 57 policy ideas - spread out over 10 subject areas and covering education, criminal justice, economics and more - that are available in its "Blueprint for a Better Deal for Black America."
Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over 25 years, is sponsored by theNational Center for Public Policy Research. Its members have been quoted, interviewed or published over 40,000 times since the program was created in 1992. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated, and may be earmarked exclusively for the use of Project 21.
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