When many on the left talk about “systemic racism,” they often cite redlining—the practice of segregating neighborhoods through mortgage restrictions and other tools—as one of most effective measures for keeping the races separate. Redlining, they contend, has resulted in worse economic and physical health for Black communities.
But the left is fully on board with a persistent form of redlining—locking public school students into failing schools, segregated by ZIP code, neighborhood and increasingly by race. That’s why it’s so disturbing to see the Texas Association of School Boards fully embrace wokeness while laboring ever harder against school choice and any challenge to the racism inherit in its own system.
Last week, TASB (which includes “all 1,024 Texas school boards as Active Members of the Association”) added to its mission statement: “We believe in and are committed to supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion; promoting dignity and mutual respect; striving to eradicate systemic racism; and providing opportunity for all.”
But TASB is the system—and its most strident defender. It opposes all challengers to the public school system, labeling them all as “vouchers” (there’s polling on the terminology).
“Vouchers—regardless of what names they may be given—are a betrayal of trust,” TASB says. “Texans believe that their tax dollars are going to support public school students. The state should never redirect those tax dollars to private schools or other unaccountable institutions.”
TASB even opposes public charter schools, making the usual long-debunked claims, including that “charter schools have a significant fiscal impact on school districts, draining resources from independent school districts and often requiring cuts in academics, programs, or staff.”
It’s never been about justice—the education establishment has always used any going cause to defend its turf. In the 1950s, for example, the Virginia Education Association opposed school choice because it undermined the VEA’s efforts at preserving segregation.
Today, the issue is clear. School choice is the civil rights movement of our time. TASB’s new commitment to eradicating systemic racism (and providing opportunity for all) is directly at odds with its fight to limit the choices of Black, Hispanic and other minority families.
Take my hometown of Houston. The Houston Chronicle acknowledges that Houston ISD is “mired in a status quo that holds back lower-income children of color.”
The Chronicle goes on to cite as one of its biggest issues the fact that “Low-rated neighborhood campuses continue to lose tens of thousands of children to magnet and charter schools.” But that’s a symptom, not a bug. Parents aren’t damaging the school district by removing their children; they’re removing their children before they lose even more ground in a damaged system.
Can you blame them? Houston’s new superintendent admits that “Houston ISD has 48 schools, of its 276 total schools, that are graded D or F by the Texas Education Agency and mentioned that 95 percent of the students in those 48 schools are economically disadvantaged and 96 percent are students of color.”
That’s why thousands of Houston families linger on waiting lists for the district’s 166 charter schools.
That’s also true statewide.
“The numbers show just how many families want more opportunities within the public education system,” the Texas Education Agency reported in March. “If all 55,059 students on public charter school waitlists were in their own school district, it would be the 16th largest district in Texas—about equivalent in size to El Paso ISD.”
If TASB wants to end system racism, it must upend the system—in other words, itself. The Association should support the funding of students, rather than the funding of systems. It should embrace more choices and more opportunity for parents, not less.
Like redlining, restricting a person’s educational choices—and therefore, their future—by location is a subtle form of systemic racism. A child’s ZIP code should never define their opportunity. TASB needs to get on board with school choice.