A generational split

On Sunday, the Washington Post published a 1,500-word story on the split in the African American community in the support of school choice, noting that a younger generation is embracing the idea of publicly funded private learning options for poor, struggling schoolchildren. It’s a cause, however, that’s up against an older generation of lawmakers who believe that a dollar redirected to tax credit scholarships and school vouchers is a dollar taken away from public schools.

After one legend in Virginia’s civil rights movement, Sen. Henry L. Marsh III, helped to defeat a measure that would have awarded tax credit scholarships to low-income children, one 18-year-old student at Virginia Commonwealth University who supported the bill, HB 2314, told the Washington Post that “I think Senator Marsh is stuck in the past.”

The 18-year-old verbalized a development that has scarcely received any media coverage in an increasingly volatile debate over school choice: When it comes to tax credit scholarships for low-income students, in particular, African American lawmakers in opposition are at odds with their constituency.

Last August, a survey from Education Next and the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University showed that African-American parents support tax credit scholarships for low-income students by a margin of 71-9 (others were neutral). All parents supported the option by a margin of 67-12.

While the researchers noted that, overall, support for tax credits has slipped, “the idea remains extremely popular among African Americans,” especially when the scholarships are designed to aid low-income students, as the Virginia bill would have facilitated.

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BY Adam Emerson

Editor of redefinED, policy and communications guru for Florida education nonprofit