School Choice Battle Is 'About Power,' Says Ex-Black Power Leader

Civil rights leader Howard Fuller marches for education reform in Montgomery, Alabama.


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On Wednesday, January 28th, thousands of parents and students marched down the streets in Montgomery, Alabama, demanding that their state recognize the growing need for more options in elementary and secondary education. The march was a part of National School Choice Week, a movement which aims to give parents more control over their children's education through the implementation of voucher systems and charter schools. Parental control when it comes to their children's education, the movement argues, is largely lacking in the current education system where children are geographically zoned for a specific public school. 

"It's ironic that we are here in Montgomery, Alabama, still trying to figure out ways in which people can gain control over their lives," says Dr. Howard Fuller, of the Black Alliance for Educational Options and a former civil rights advocate in the 1960s and 70s. Fuller has spent the last three decades advocating for school choice. He's particularly aware of how the status-quo affects minority students, many of whom are zoned to failing public schools.

"[School choice] is particularly important for low-income and working class children of color because so many of them are in schools that do not work for them. So the idea is to give them other options, other choices," says Fuller, "It's trying to give families more control over the decision-making as to where is the best place for their children to get the education that they desire for them."

State Republicans are expected to try again this year to bring charter schools to Alabama, an effort that has fallen flat in previous attempts due largely to the pressure of the teachers' unions, which oppose school choice. Fuller and Kevin Chavous, of the American Federation for Children and Alliance for School Choice, believe the unions' opposition boils down to power. 

"Teachers care about kids, most teachers, but the political arm of the teachers' unions is about power, money, and control," says Chavous.

About three minutes.

Produced by Amanda Winkler and Joshua Swain. 

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