My Anti-School Choice Friends Are Hypocrites When It Comes to Educating Black Children

I have many friends who are staunchly “anti-choice” when it comes to educating  Black children. They are awesome people, folks you would trust with your children or money, but I find their hypocrisy alarming.

They can be broken up into different categories. However, one trait they all share is that they consistently exercise choice for their children, yet they expect Black families to only exercise patience.

My friends are hypocrites based off of stories they have shared with me over the years. None of them could be considered anything less than middle-class economically. Many of them not only choose their children’s schools, they exude an inordinate amount of energy to choose their children’s classrooms!

I have heard more stories about my middle-class friends exerting pressure to ensure their children get the best teachers as they matriculate throughout schools. Some have even threatened to pull their children out of a particular school if they don’t get their wishes. Seems like choice to me.

Other well-to-do families choose another way to ensure that their children have an educational ecosystem by choosing. These parents can afford the tutoring, trips, camps, and experiences that can supplement what they believe their children need. So, they not only are choosing, they have access to an entire menu to choose from. Often, these same folks frown on others who don’t financially have access to this menu of choice.

There are many other fraudulent anti-school choice folks who choose their schools by choosing the neighborhood (gentrified, suburban, etc.) they can afford to live in.

There are others who choose their schools based off the criteria that their schools of choice segregate entry by the abilities of children. These types of “anti-choice” folks operate at the most confounding levels of hypocrisy, falsely and loudly declare that charter schools are not public schools. Many of these hypocrites attended and/or send their children to the most private “public’ schools around.

Listen, if I want to visit a public library, there is no criteria to visit. It is public. The same with a public bathroom. Charter schools that are open to any child are far more public than magnet and criteria-based schools that select based off of the highest test scores, best attendance, most talented interviewee, and most astonishing presentation by student applicants.

In Philadelphia, what is most vexing are the politicians whose children attend magnet and criteria-based schools; schools that have historically been closed to most Black children, have less children in poverty than the city’s average, have less students with special needs or ELL support, and who screen entry of its students studiously, and vigilantly. Despite all of these barriers to entry, these politicians blast charter schools and school choice and champion their almost-impossible-to-get-in-if-I’m-Black schools as the definition of public.

I am not anti-magnet schools. I actually embrace them as a part of the portfolio model that cities like Philadelphia are developing. Some of these magnet schools focus particularly on a theme and they work diligently to ensure that the children they accept are great fits for the environment, culture, and mission of their schools.

But, what they need to stop doing is feigning like they are all about public schools and demonizing charters for not being public. These politicians should advocate for their constituents’ right to choose a public school that works for them and stop “faking the funk.”

I don’t believe there is really anyone who is anti-school choice. What they are, by and large, is rabidly pro-choice for their own children. Many families will use every trick, loophole, legal and otherwise, to ensure their children get the best classroom, school, and educational experience as possible.

Families are starting to see that  some of you only care about having choice for your children, while other folks are on the outside looking in. Please, don’t come for these public schools, unless sent for.

What do you think?

About the author

Sharif El-Mekki

Sharif El-Mekki is the principal of Mastery Charter School–Shoemaker Campus, a neighborhood public charter school in Philadelphia that serves 750 students in grades 7-12. From 2013-2015, he was one of three principal ambassador fellows working on issues of education policy and practice with U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan.

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