What singular cause could bring together the likes of Democratic campaign strategist James Carville, Republican Governor Bobby Jindal (LA), actor Sacha Baron Cohen, and 2,000 families, all under one roof? The answer: school choice -- empowering parents with the ability to save their children from failing schools, thereby giving them a shot at a brighter future.
Those big names came together to kick off National School Choice Week in New Orleans over the weekend, a celebration that is being echoed in some 400 events across the country in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, with half the nation's governors declaring "School Choice Week" in their states. Actor, comedian, and education advocate Bill Cosby offered his support for school choice, as well: "I strongly support National School Choice Week because all children in America should be able to access the best schools possible. We have a moral and societal obligation to give our children the opportunity to succeed in school, at work, and in life. We cannot meet that obligation unless parents are empowered to select the best schools of their children. I encourage everyone who wants to see a transformation of American education to get involved in National School Choice Week."
The groundswell of support comes after a year of significant strides in the school choice movement. A total of 12 states and the District of Columbia either enacted or expanded school choice options in 2011. Heritage education expert Lindsey Burke explains that last year, "more families than ever before gained access to school choice options, freeing them from assignment-by-zip code policies that often relegate families to the public school closest to their home, regardless of whether it meet their child's needs." As a result, more families have access to school choice options -- including vouchers, tax credits, homeschooling, online learning, and even education savings accounts.
That expansion of school choice came after what appeared to be ominous news for some of America's schoolchildren in 2009 and 2010. In Washington, D.C., home to some of the country's most dangerous and under-performing schools, families of low-income children received vouchers through the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, giving them a chance to choose a brighter educational future. That light of hope, though, was about to be extinguished when Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) inserted a provision in a 2009 spending bill that would have ended the program. That changed, though, when the Tea Party revolution came to Congress, bringing with it a new movement toward school choice. In early 2011, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) successfully fought for the reauthorization of the D.C. scholarship program, ensuring that those families continued to have a choice in education.
The opportunities those children enjoy provide an example for the rest of the country. Heritage president Ed Feulner explains why school choice -- and improving education in America -- is such a central issue for our country's future: "There are many good public schools across this country with dedicated teachers who deserve praise. Unfortunately, there also are many bad schools, especially in urban areas. When you consider the damage those institutions inflict, making it nearly impossible for students to learn and fulfill their potential, you realize it's nothing short of a national crime. That's why it's so heartening to see the school-choice movement gaining ground."
As we honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., let us pause to reflect on who he was and why his struggle to obtain civil rights for black Americans was necessary.
First, Dr. King was a Republican until the day he died because he knew that the Republican Party, from its founding in 1854 as the anti-slavery party, championed freedom and civil rights for blacks. For details on the history of civil rights, see the NBRA Civil Rights Newsletter posted on the NBRA's website.
Second, the nemesis of Dr. King's valiant and historic campaign to end discrimination and gain equality for blacks was the Democratic Party, the party of slavery, segregation and the Ku Klux Klan. Led by the former Senator and Klansman Robert Byrd, Democrats launched a despicable crusade to smear and undermine Dr. King. This relentless disparagement of Dr. King resulted in his being physically assaulted and ultimately to his tragic death.
When Dr. King left Memphis, Tennessee in March of 1968 after riots broke out where a teenager was killed, Byrd called Dr. King a "trouble-maker" who starts trouble, but runs like a coward after trouble is ignited. A few weeks later, Dr. King returned to Memphis and was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
Prior to his death, Democrats bombed Dr. King's home several times. The scurrilous efforts by the Democrats to harm Dr. King included spreading rumors that he was a Communist and accusing him of being a womanizer and a plagiarist.
An egregious act against Dr. King occurred on October 10, 1963. Democrat President John F. Kennedy authorized his brother, Democrat Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, to wiretap Dr. King's telephone using the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Wiretaps were placed by the FBI on Dr. King's telephones in his home and office. The FBI also bugged Dr. King's hotel rooms when he traveled around the country.
The trigger for this unsavory wiretapping was apparently Dr. Kings' criticism of President Kennedy for ignoring civil rights issues, according to the author David Garrow in his book, "Bearing the Cross". As was pointed out in the book by Wayne Perryman "Whites, Blacks and Racist Democrats", Kennedy voted against the 1957 Civil Rights Act while he was a senator. After Kennedy became president, he was opposed to the 1963 March on Washington by Dr. King.
The justification given by the Kennedy Administration publicly for wiretapping Dr. King was that two of Dr. King's associates, including David Levinson, had ended their association with the Communist Party in order to work undercover and influence Dr. King. However, after years of continuous and extensive wiretapping, the FBI found no direct links of Dr. King to the Communist Party.
Kennedy's disdain for blacks further manifested itself when the King family sought help with getting Dr. King out of a Birmingham jail. Kennedy's civil rights advisor, Harris Wofford who was a personal friend of Dr. King, made a telephone call on behalf of Kennedy without Kennedy's knowledge. That call resulted in Dr. King's release. Kennedy was angry about the call because he feared he would lose the Southern vote. History shows, though, that the call by Wofford eventually worked in Kennedy's favor and is the primary reason so many blacks today wrongly venerate Kennedy.
The unrelenting efforts by Democrats to tarnish Dr. King's reputation continued for years after his death. To his credit, Republican President Ronald Reagan ignored the Democrats' smear campaign and made Dr. King's birthday a holiday.
Today, while professing to revere Dr. King, Democrats are still attempting to sully his image by claiming that he was a socialist. In reality, Dr. King was a Christian, guided by his faith and Republican Party principles as he struggled to gain equality for blacks. He did not embrace the type of socialist agenda that is promoted by the Democratic Party today, which includes fostering dependency on government handouts that trap blacks in generational poverty.
Frances Rice is a retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel, a lawyer and chairman of the National Black Republican Association. She may be contacted at: http://www.nbra.info/%20