Tuesday, July 17, 2012

For Famed Washington Post Columnist, Choice Words on School Choice

Former Washington Post columnist William Raspberry died today of prostatecancer at the age of 76.  A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who wrote for The Washington Post for more than 40 years on social issues including race, education, and poverty, Raspberry was the second-ever nationally-syndicated black columnist upon his ascension to the position in 1996.

Raspberry’s most famous columns recounted his views of black families, black communities, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  Less known, but still significant for the readers of the more than 200 papers around the nation that published his columns, were Raspberry’s view on school choice.

Having written dozens of columns and editorials on school choice, here are some of his most memorable statements on vouchers for children from low-income families:

“And the question that won’t go away is: If choice is good for middle-class children, why is it bad for poor children, who without some sort of subsidy, may find themselves stuck in underperforming schools.”
September 2003

“As a middle-class parent whose children attend public and private schools, I can’t see anything particularly noble about denying that same choice to children who are poor.”
September 2003

“For some years, I’ve been having my own private wrestling match over school vouchers—supporting the expansion of choices to parents who had two few, and worrying over the prospect of draining even more support from our troubled public schools.

Today, I want you to listen to the mental wrestlings of man who has arrived solidly on the pro-voucher side of the issue.”
August 2001

"My point in the present case, though, is the dead certainty on the part of teachers unions and other liberal groups that vouchers cannot possibly improve education for poor children. It's almost as though they'd rather be certain than try it - even in just three or four cities."
April 2000

"If I find myself slowly morphing into a supporter of charter schools and vouchers, it isn't because I harbor any illusions that there's something magical about these alternatives. It is because I am increasingly doubtful that the public schools can do (or at any rate will do) what is necessary to educate poor minority children."
June 1998

"Look at it from the viewpoint of those parents who grab so avidly for the chance to get their children into better schools: Should they be required to keep their children in dreadful schools in order to keep those schools from growing even worse? Should they be made to wait until we get around to improving all the public schools? . . . Surely voucher opponents cannot believe the logic of their counterargument: that if you can't save everybody -- whether from a burning apartment house, a sinking ship or a dreadful school system -- it's better not to save anybody at all."
March 1998

“When Ted Forstmann and John Walton put up $6 million of their own money to provide scholarships for low-income parents who wanted their children out of the District of Columbia public schools, there were 7,573 applications—about a tenth of the total public school enrollment.

These parents...constitute 7,573 rebuttals to whatever anti-voucher case you care to make.”
—March 1998

“I recently declared myself a reluctant convert to school “choice,” a declaration that has dismayed some supporters of public education and cheered some opponents of what they are pleased to call ‘government schools.’

At the risk of dismaying both these camps—and perhaps some others as well—let me try to express more clearly the sad conclusion I’ve reached: It’s time for some serious experimentation.”
June 1997

“For most of us who buy public education, there is no elsewhere.  It’s like it or lump it, and millions of our children are taking their lumps everyday”
August 1975

Looking at Raspberry's views in the past, and the solidly pro-voucher stance he took in recent years, is simply the latest example that for many folks, this is an issue for which there is room for growth. As we mourn Raspberry's loss and reflect on his remarkable career, we ask that you keep that in mind -- the fight to bring educational options to low-income families exists everywhere.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

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