Star Parker

Why would an organization that calls itself the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, whose motto is "Making Democracy Work Since 1909," oppose individual choice and freedom and dedicate itself to promoting public policy that guarantees the perpetuation of black poverty?

As incongruous as this might sound, it is in fact true.

Consider the prominent role that the NAACP played recently in killing the Opportunity Scholarships Program created by Gov. Jeb Bush in Florida, which granted vouchers to students in failing public schools to attend a different school of their choice - public or private.

As soon as the program got underway, the NAACP joined the unions to challenge its constitutionality under Florida law. The challenge was upheld in divided court decisions up through Florida's Supreme Court.

Governor Bush attempted to salvage the program through a proposed amendment to the State constitution; however, this was narrowly defeated in the Florida Senate two weeks ago.

During the past school year, 740 students participated in the Opportunity Scholarship Program, of which 64 percent were black and 30 percent Hispanic. The students are practically all from low-income families.

So why would the NAACP work to kill a program that gives low income minority kids a chance to get a good education at a private school?

"Vouchers siphon off money from public education," according to the president of the NAACP's New York Chapter.

But, of course, vouchers do not siphon off money from the public school system. However, they do cause the public school system to compete for those funds. Vouchers shift power to parents from bureaucrats.

Here, as elsewhere, NAACP leadership automatically equates big government with black interests.

The public school monopoly serves the black community so notoriously poorly that many blacks themselves poll in favor of vouchers.

The GAO reported in 2004 that there are almost three million kids nationwide in schools failing by No Child Left Behind criteria. These are disproportionately poor black kids. Half of these kids do not graduate and the ones that do, graduate with eighth grade reading skills.

So what's going on here? You would think that NAACP leaders would be rabid in pushing for change and opening new educational opportunities available for black children. Yet, they doggedly defend a proven and hopeless failed status quo.

The need for school choice for black kids goes beyond the argument for efficiency and competition. The education problem in the black community is really a social, moral and family problem.

Star Parker

Star Parker is founder and president of CURE, the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, a 501c3 think tank which explores and promotes market based public policy to fight poverty, as well as author of the newly revised Uncle Sam's Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America's Poor and What We Can do About It.