On Martin Luther King Day, it is worth remembering the sacrifices people made to advance equity and desegregate public life in America, including our schools. Unfortunately, some activists have begun exploiting the occasion to retell history.
In the new revisionist stories, modern school choice supporters are close ancestors to the villainous segregationists of the past.
History, of course, is far more complicated. And that’s why it’s worth taking a closer look at some of the scholarship that underpins the misleading narratives about school choice.
Segregationists, it turns out, supported public and private schools alike. And meanwhile, teacher unions in the South ramped up their fights against school vouchers after discovering large numbers of parents used them for reasons other than racial discrimination.
Last year, Duke University historian Nancy MacLean claimed to have uncovered a shocking connection between James Buchanan, a school voucher supporter, and Sen. Harry Byrd’s anti-integration political machine. According to MacLean, Buchanan, a Nobel-winning economist, planted the racist roots of school vouchers by allying with segregationists to pass school vouchers into Virginia law.
A month after MacLean’s book Democracy in Chains was published, the American Federation of Teachers president Randy Weingarten claimed vouchers were the “polite cousin to racial segregation.” Numerous articles began to circulate arguing that school choice and racial segregation were inseparably linked. Continue Reading →