Georgia state Rep: Why don’t more civil rights groups support school choice?

Georgia state Rep. Mike Glanton
Georgia state Rep. Mike Glanton

Last week, at a gathering of school choice supporters in New Orleans, a pair of Georgia state lawmakers talked about the importance of educational choice, and their efforts to gain support for it among fellow Democrats.

State Reps. Valencia Stovall and Mike Glanton both represent parts of Clayton County, south of Atlanta, and have supported charter schools and other school choice legislation.

Glanton, who also chairs the board of a Clayton County charter school, said he could not understand why some groups that have historically championed civil rights in the school system have not also supported school choice. This transcript of his comments are slightly edited for length and clarity.

I spoke to the the Clayton County Education Association, which is a local union, last week, and they wanted to know why I voted for the [Opportunity School District].

I said I have 17 reasons why. … The 17 reasons are my grand children. …

I have 17 reasons why it’s important for me, and my family, that we get this right. My kids can’t afford to have people practice on them. My children get one shot. They get one opportunity.

Now I’m smart enough, and I’m certainly not naive, to know that my grandkids probably won’t have an opportunity to go to a private school. So it’s very important to me … that we make sure that every child has an opportunity for hope and access to a quality education, regardless of their socio-economics.

It’s also important to me to help folks understand, this is a civil rights issue. For me, this is about civil rights. It’s no longer about sitting at the front of the bus, or getting on the bus. It’s about having the opportunity to be educated, and successful, and buying the bus. That’s what we’ve got to instill. …

[The] people who advocate for pro-choice this, and pro-choice that are the same folks who are fighting against against my right, and my choice, to send my kids to the schools that I choose to send them to.

We fought – those of us who are on the front lines, those of us who are old enough to have been, and are in some respects still fighting – we fought for the right to go to the schools we wanted to go to. We fought for the right to vote for who we wanted to vote for. We fought for the right to live where we need to live, and work where we need to work.

But yet, these are the same voices that are trying to silence those who choose educational choice today. Explain that. I don’t understand it. …

It’s more than about money. It’s about climate. It’s about environment. It’s about choice. I travel all around the world. I was in India … I watched kids learning on the floor. Dim lights. No desks. But these are same kids that are showing up on the steps of Georgia Tech, and MIT, and Boston University. Why?

We are at a crossroads here. We are at a place where, black, white or indifferent, if we’re going to move ourselves closer to the global standard for education, then Georgia’s got to step up.