My RedState colleague, Jennifer Oliver O’Connell, brought up a valid point with her recent op-ed: Black Intellectuals Are Not Impressed with President Biden’s tact, tone, or focus in the weeks after the November election. There has been more skepticism over the initial days of his presidency as well.
Of course, this is a continuation from the guarded side-eyes that Black America has been giving the 46th president since 2019, when questionable past policy positions, missteps during debate season, and misspeaking during public appearances have led to shakiness during the 2020 primary and general election seasons.
If you want to see how much the wokeness of Black America will truly matter to the Biden/Harris Administration – especially if you understand that school choice and education equity lead to equality in America — watch how it addresses and acts during this National School Choice Week, starting Monday.
President Biden’s political balance this week is a delicate one. He must navigate between pleasing the union base of his constituency, the progressive left that pushes for doubling-down on their perspectives and policies, and the Black electorate that is both rooted in change in education as well as demands for substantive policy reforms for Black America from this administration. He must close the gap on the receding talents of America’s youth, as the continued slippage behind Western nations in education for years has been compounded with the reality that some 3 million American children have “fallen off the grid” due in part to the failures of the education monopoly. School districts from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh remain closed to in-person instruction, with the Biden Administration now “on the hook” to persuade them to open safely and effectively, especially now that mental health concerns in places including Las Vegas are prompting education leaders to seek ways to re-open schools ASAP.
Part of the solution – particularly for the most disadvantaged Americans – is a viable education system that affords American families access to the schools that best fit the academic, cultural, and developmental needs of their children. We must make this a vital necessity, especially during this National School Choice Week and beyond, if we are to recapture the rapidly eroding potential of children boxed in by the legacy socioeconomic woes of our nation and the compounding factors of healthcare concerns and daily sustainability that have stemmed from the pandemic. Further, Black and Brown families in America overwhelmingly want more options in education for their children, even as the education elite continue to bash harshly and push back abruptly on the right of self-determination in education in a manner that promotes the antithesis of the American Dream.
And yet, Biden is already getting mixed reviews.
The president’s nomination of Connecticut’s Miguel Cardona was noted as a viable selection of a leader that might not be anti-charter and, thus, lead in a manner that is truly pro-student – regardless of the enrollment status of a child. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools noted in December that “…Black and Latino parents overwhelmingly support charter schools, and we expect Cardona’s commitment to educational equity will include protecting their ability to access these schools…(for) nearly 3.3 million students…(and the) nearly five million more students would attend a charter school if one were available to them.” Yet, Biden’s nomination of Cindy Marten as the Department of Education’s Deputy Superintendent of Schools harkens back to a time when the tone of Biden’s 1994 Crime Bill reflected the infamous words of then-First Lady Hillary Clinton – targeting African-American boys and urban youth as “super predators”. Marten’s nomination was abhorred in her hometown of San Diego, where the local NAACP put out a statement on MLK Day denouncing the selection.
“A recent report released by researchers at San Diego States University (SDSU) Black Minds Project sheds light on historical disproportionate rates of suspensions and expulsions in SDUSD,” the statement reads. “For example, the report found that Black males in Kindergarten through Third grade (K-3) are suspended at a rate that is 280% higher than that of their peers. The report also found that, in comparison to the district’s average, black males were 3.1x more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension and 2.8x more likely to receive an in-school suspension. Cindy Marten has a historical pattern of allowing the excessive suspension and expulsion of Black students in San Diego. President Biden, with all of the qualified educators we have in our nation, this is not a good choice for healing Black students, families and educators, nor is it a step in the right direction for repairing harm in our schools…”
This is after the NAACP had already filed complaints against the district under Marten’s leadership, stating that a “……pattern, history, and frequency of employee discrimination [and] parent and student discrimination, possible incompetence/negligence and seeming blatant abuse of parent/student rights…” occurred on her watch.
With Biden’s political necessity to placate those that resurrected his presidential aspirations from the performances of 1988, 2008, and initially in this past cycle, he is caught between the winds of change in education, the clamoring for expanding school choice from the electorate that gave him much-needed victories in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, and entrenched unionized politicos that expect policy quid pro quo for putting him over the top in 2020. Biden has already transformed positions on items including defunding the police as he morphed from candidate-to-nominee-to-president. Black voters were not pleased. Others were disappointed to see the flip-flop on $2,000 stimulus checks as well. Now, we wait on the eve of National School Choice Week to see a clear direction: Will the 46th president follow the will of the American people – a will that seeks expanded school choice with bipartisan support? Or will he display the career politician tendencies that led to disillusionment for over a decade and culminated in the rise of a political outsider to the White House not too long ago?
If we want to see what type of America President Biden chooses to rebuild in 2021, watch what he does and says during National School Choice Week. Let’s hope for the sake of our children – especially the most disadvantaged Americans – that he chooses wisely.