Pastors for Texas Children led by Reverend Charles Johnson, routinely and publicly denigrate “School Choice” as immoral and even make accusations of “White Supremacists” against supporters for school choice.
My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. James 3:1
School choice, or education options that allow students and families to select alternatives to public schools, is the subject of heated debate across the country among various state legislatures and citizens alike.
The most common type of school choice, evaluated by the number of programs available and by the number of participating students, is scholarship tax programs. These programs allow individuals or businesses to receive tax credits toward their state taxes in exchange for donations made to non-profit organizations that grant private school scholarships, or a similar subsidy may be provided by a state through a school voucher program.
Scholarship tax programs, however, are only available in fourteen states, excluding Texas. Other school choice options include open enrollment allows (allowing students to attend public schools other than their “zoned” school), charter schools, magnet schools, virtual schools, homeschooling and more.
Pastors for Texas Children, a ministry dedicated to “saving public schools,” routinely and publicly demagogues school choice.
“At a public meeting in Longview this month, the group’s founder, the Rev. Charles Johnson, said school choice not only promotes segregation, but it’s being supported by Gov. Greg Abbott to ‘underwrite these Christian nationalist, white supremacist academies,’” reported Longview News-Journal in a recent article.
Reverend Charles Johnson is being paid handsomely for his part to oppose School Choice
“It’s sinful,” the reverend continued brazenly, “and for him to do it in the name of Jesus is an outrage.”
Interestingly, opponents of school choice share sentiment with the reverend, arguing that favoring school choice to zoned public schools is “white supremacy,” “classist,” and beneficial solely to the affluent and privileged.
These claims are sensationalized and designed to elicit emotional reactions to parents pursuing alternative educations for their children. When people are emotional, their limbic system fires rampantly. Conversely, their prefrontal cortex, or the “rational brain,” slows functioning tremendously.
Let’s explore this debate rationally, without sensationalist arguments. To date, eight studies have examined the effect of school choice on school integration to determine whether alternative educations are beneficial to all, or solely to the white and affluent.
“Seven found positive effects. One found no effect. Zero found negative effects,” Longview News-Journal reported.
Senior Pastor Charles Flowers
“It says a lot about Johnson that he would cast stones at other education sectors, given how racially and economically stratified our public schools have become. I believe the appropriate psychological term is ‘projection,’” senior pastor and person-of-color Charles Flowers remarked.
In fact, the students who benefit most from private school choice are Black and Hispanic. This is exemplified nationally. In Florida, one in five Black students, about 120,000, now attend private schools, utilizing either choice scholarships or charter school programs.
Black families do not differ from white families in their love and consideration of their children. Nationwide, they’re sending their children to all kinds of private schools, or opting for open enrollment in areas which allow it. Others still choose to enroll their children in loving schools within Black communities.
“One good example is Icon Preparatory School,” Flowers remarked. “The K-8 school opened in Tampa, Florida, five years ago, founded by six former public school teachers, five of whom attended Florida A&M University. The home of the Baby Rattlers quickly reached capacity, promoting the founders to start a second campus. Every student on both campuses, 800 total, [uses] choice scholarships.”
Icon Preparatory School offers a dual-enrollment program with a Catholic university, allowing its middle school students to begin taking college classes. In 2022, five of these students completed their first year of college.
Each of these students are thriving because of school choice. Chastising the attendees of these schools and their families with violent descriptors like “Christian nationalism” is fear mongering.
Other school choice opponents claim low-income families aren’t aided in accessing private schools, and when they are, the schools are sub-par.
“Here are some facts from Florida, a state that’s had private school choice for 25 years,” Longview News-Journal cataloged.
“Last year, 180,000 Florida students used income-based scholarships. Their average family income was $44,000. That’s a lot of low-income and working-class families accessing private schools. As for private school quality, again, the data from Florida is instructive.”
Florida has captured fifteen years of standardized testing and deciphered two consistent findings; firstly, the students on scholarships tended to be the lowest-performing students in their private public schools. This finding is logical, as lower-income students often receive less access to materials, resources and technologies which aid in learning.
The second finding was incredible; now, these lowest-performing students are making the same annual learning gains as students of all income levels nationally. Their access to school choice completely bridged the gap between them and students from more affluent backgrounds, offsetting many of their disadvantages and opening their young worlds up to potential for excellence in adulthood.
“Even better, a 2019 report from the highly respected Urban Institute found that students on the Florida scholarships were far more likely than their public school counterparts to go to four-year colleges and earn bachelor’s degrees,” Longview News-Journal continued.
Radical, sensationalist opponents of school choice like Pastors for Texas Children will undoubtedly keep trying to spread false information about alternative schooling to turn the public against it. Yet the evidence is indisputable: families from every background and culture benefit from school choice.