Last week, the Bluegrass Institute participated in an event hosted by the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), a national group of concerned African Americans fighting to increase school choice for those who need it most – underprivileged kids.
At the event, BAEO member and long-time supporter of the Bluegrass Institute, Pastor Jerry Stephenson, introduced the keynote speaker for the evening: Howard Fuller, Ph.D., founding member of BAEO and a man who has a lot to say about school choice and the state of education in western Jefferson County.
The theme of his talk was “the urgency of now.” For too long, we’ve heard from Kentucky education officials that four, five even ten years are needed before we can turn schools in Jefferson County into competitive centers of education. We can no longer afford to accept such tired rhetoric when a four year delay only means yet another generation of kids who don’t have the tools to thrive in a 21st century workforce.
Fuller pointed to the historic 1960 sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina, where four young black students demanded to be served at a segregated diner in a show of racial equality. Now more than 50 years later, blacks do have the right to be served in such a diner – the only problem is they can’t read the menus.
“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today,” Fuller said. “We need warriors…people that don’t accept that it can’t be done now.”
But now, today’s state of education in Kentucky, and especially Jefferson County, is not serving black youths. The achievement gaps between blacks and whites for both math and reading are still alarmingly wide, and claims that we require years before we can turn it around are unacceptable.
But according to Fuller, the way toward improving education in Kentucky is not through more of the same, but by making fundamental changes to the commonwealth’s educational institutions.Passing charter school legislation is the lowest hanging fruit. Kentucky is one of the “dirty eight,” the eight states that have yet to pass such legislation. By refusing to make these fundamental changes, by insisting that traditional public schools become “charter-like” instead of true charters, the educational establishment and teacher unions only practicing what Louisville’s Muhammad Ali innovated decades ago: rope-a-dope. And Kentuckians are continuing to allow the educational powers-that-be jab away at our kids’ future with the same old rhetoric.
Fuller left the Louisville audience with the obvious question: “How much longer y’all gonna wait?”