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The “Racism-Theory” Smear Campaign of the Anti-School Choice Movement

Of the many falsehoods spread about school choice programs, the most vile is the suggestion that school choice proponents are motivated by racism and a desire to return to the days of racial segregation (let’s call it the school choice “racism-theory”). The argument goes like this: Did you know that “choice” was once presented as an end-around to racial integration? Well, now you do. Therefore, the modern school choice movement is racist.

This smear has no basis in fact and is belied by a mountain of evidence to the contrary.

School choice is no longer a theoretical policy proposal. These programs have been implemented and the results have been studied for decades. First, let’s look at the empirical data on the effects of school choice programs on racial and ethnic integration. As of April 2022, seven empirical studies have looked at the effects of school choice programs in terms of racial integration. Here they are:

All seven of the studies looked at were voucher programs. Six of those studies found a positive impact on racial integration. Not a single study in over two decades showed the opposite effect. These are not the kinds of programs one would adopt if the goal was resegregation.

Dishonest opponents of choices in education make similar arguments about charter schools. With the help of a handful of Democrats who realize that charters benefit the kids in their districts, Texas’ robust charter school system has been built up and supported by conservatives and Republicans. The result? A student body of 350,000+ students that is far more racially diverse and serves a far higher economically disadvantaged student population than the traditional public school system. Charter schools serve a higher proportion of African American, Hispanic, and Asian students than do traditional public schools. Additionally, charters serve a higher proportion of economically disadvantaged students and English language learners than do traditional public schools. Look at any witness list or record vote on a pro-charter school bill, and you’ll see who supports helping poor minority students. It’s mostly Republicans and a handful of Democrats who are willing to do the right thing.

Polling also betrays the assertion that school choice proponents are motivated by segregation. RealClear Opinion Research’s national polling asks the following question:

School choice gives parents the right to use the tax dollars designated for their child’s

education to send their child to the public or private school which best serves their needs.

Generally speaking, would you say you support or oppose the concept of school choice?

The results are not what the racism-theory proponents would have you believe. While 72% of the population polled supported the proposition, the responses show a commanding majority of all demographics now in support school choice. African American respondents supported the proposition 72% to 19%, Hispanic respondents supported it 77% to 14%, and Asian respondents supported it 67% to 20%. In terms of political affiliation, even a majority of Democrats (68% to 12%) now support school choice. It is unclear what the racism-theory school choice opponents think is going on here.

The fact of the matter is that the current public education system in Texas has produced a student population in which barely half of the students are reading at grade level and not even half are at grade level in math. This is the system they are defending with falsehoods and a racism-theory smear campaign.

Source: Texas Education Agency

What we are doing in Texas is not working for a great many children. The push for school choice is motivated by a desire to do right by these kids and give some of them an opportunity to find an environment that might serve them a little bit better than the one to which they have been geographically assigned. Decades of data support the proposition that school choice programs produce overwhelmingly positive results, as TCCRI lays out in Outstanding Opportunities: The Case for Education Choice in the Lone Star State. The opponents of choice who resort to falsehoods and smear tactics know this and they choose to ignore it. It’s those dishonest opponents of choice who should be ignored.


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