Black People Ask What Republicans Can Offer Them. The Answer: 'School Choice For Black Children' | Opinion

Black children in classroom
Black people have—rightly—asked Republicans for 50 years, "What do you have to offer me?" It's time to offer them a better education system. Mark Peterson // Corbis/Getty

Contrary to what the box office totals might lead you to believe, the must-see movie of the year is not the Avengers-End Game (which has broken the record for the highest grossing film of all-time). No, the must-see movie of 2019 contains no special effects or fictional characters with otherworldly powers. It does, however, contain one real-life superhero, the eponymous Miss Virginia.

For those not familiar, Ms. Virginia Walden Ford is the black female activist who heroically founded DC Parents for School Choice back in 1998. She and her twin sister were also among the first 130 children chosen to start the desegregation of Little Rock, Arkansas, high schools in the 60s. Years later, inspired by the historic moment she personally experienced, she refused to allow her three children to be forced into Washington, D.C.'s dysfunctional public schools.

So, as any heroine in a must-see film must do in order to start all the subsequent dramatic plot points in motion, she decided to act.

Founding her organization, she went door to door to enlist the support of other residents in the fight for school choice. As noted on her website, her efforts ultimately led to Congress and President George W. Bush enacting the nation's first-ever Opportunity Scholarship Program for low-income children, a program Barack Obama later condemned. The program provides scholarships for low-income children to attend private schools, while boosting federal funding for traditional public schools and public charter schools.

Ms. Ford's courage back then and her ongoing efforts today are at once admirable and curious. For anyone to commit their life to fighting to improve conditions for not just themselves, but for others, is noble and exemplifies the spirit of individual Americans that makes our nation exceptional. On the other hand, it's curious that she has had to fight so hard against others from similar backgrounds and communities, not to mention the very people who claim to represent her. She has had to fight liberal politicians, educators and bureaucrats at every step of the way just to bring equal opportunity to inner city children.

The struggle of Ms. Ford, and the struggle of all the mothers like her who just want the best for their children, holds within it the five-word key to President Donald Trump's reelection in 2020: School choice for black kids.

In the 2018 Florida Gubernatorial election, Republican Ron DeSantis ended up winning in large part because of 100,000 unexpected votes that came from black women in response to his proposal for statewide school choice. Mothers wanting their children's lives to be better outweighed other, more traditional party line drivers. If President Trump proposed strong federal incentives for states to provide school choice, it would have a similar impact at a national level. This would also be perfectly consistent with other efforts he has made to help minority communities, such as Urban Opportunity Zones and the First Step Act. This is not political stretch by any means.

The modern idea of a "voucher" system was promulgated by the late Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman back in the 1950's. In its simplest form, vouchers, he argued, could be given to poor families to use at the school of their choice, not just the public school to which they were assigned. The amount of the voucher would be tied to the actual average cost of one student for one year in a public school.

Since Friedman's first proposal, there have been numerous experiments with voucher programs and other forms of parent-centered educational choice programs. While the programs have had varying degrees of success, depending largely upon elected leaders' level of commitment to them, one common thread runs through all of them: they are always opposed by liberal politicians and teacher's unions.

It is easy enough to understand the opposition to parental choice programs on the part of public school teachers. Competition for tuition dollars will force them to perform at a higher level in order to keep students. Right now, only wealthy students can easily "vote with their feet" and leave public schools. This is especially ironic when the exodus is led by the children of white liberal parents, the very people who often voice their self-righteous indignation over the neglect of inner-city poor. In any case, public schools do have a captive audience, for all practical purposes. Poor, marginalized kids, often representing minority communities, equates to job security and control for public school teachers and their unions.

For the politicians, their resistance to parental choice is obvious. They are beholden to teacher's unions for both votes and campaign donations. There is no question that this is part of it, but I will contend it is not close to all of it.

This October 3-5, Turning Point USA will be hosting its annual Black Leadership Summit in Washington, DC, Ms. Ford's ground zero. I know I am going to be surrounded by young black conservative students, many of whom will have had the benefit of better pre-college education than they'd get if they were trapped in the nation's inner-city schools. That better education has given them the foundation they need in order to live aspirational lives and have the belief they can achieve. The students at this conference will have hope.

However, the black students who are left to fight for survival in assigned urban public schools find it harder to have that hope. They are often resigned to lives of limited choices and dependence on public services in order to get by. That means they need government and that also means they need the kind of politicians that promise them more government.

Those politicians would be the same liberals who feign compassion for inner-city students and their families. Those politicians foster a constituency by forcing generation after generation of black children into a failed education system.

Black people have rightly asked Republicans for the past 50 years, what do you have to offer me? President Trump has already told them in his first term that he offers a fairer federal prison system and increased employment opportunity. It's time to offer them, and their mothers, a better education system. It's a winning proposition.

Charlie Kirk is the founder and executive director of Turning Point USA, the nation's largest and fastest growing conservative youth organization with a presence on over 1,500 college and high school campuses; he is also host of "The Charlie Kirk Show."

The opinions expressed in this essay are the author's own.