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Press Release

    Excellence and Equity for All Children

    04/14/2005

    Pastor Revell is the pastor at Agape International Ministries in Rock Hill, SC and is a founding member of Clergy for Educational Options.

    Parental choice has become a hot issue in this state. Unfortunately, it is generating the heat of controversy rather than the light of reason. Opponents of reform, including certain media, are now pulling out the race card and arguing that school choice will "re-segregate" public schools. That charge is not just false, it is hypocritical.

    For all the anti-reformers talk and alleged concern, the fact is, today's public schools are disgracefully segregated. According to Harvard Professor Paul Peterson in his article School Choice: A Civil Rights Issue, "Despite the efforts of the civil rights movement, public schools today remain just as segregated as they were in the 1950s." There is ample evidence out there to support Mr. Peterson's contention. According to a published analysis of Department of Education data, 55% of public school 12th graders nationwide are in racially segregated classrooms (where more than 90% of students are of the same background) compared to 41% of private school 12th graders.

    Anyone who wants local proof does not have to look far. South Carolina's record on race, justice, and equity is deplorable. Just look at a school district like Clarendon One. It is hard to imagine a school district more segregated (well over 90% Black) and one where the schools have failed the students so badly (95% of 8th graders cannot read and write at proficient level). Allendale County schools are almost 95% Black. Thanks to poor education, only 3% of Allendale students can qualify for the state's LIFE scholarship due to low SAT scores and GPAs. Jasper County's schools are 86% Black. Again, because of low achievement, less than 1% of students qualified for LIFE scholarships. Not a single one was Black. One shudders to think of the many lost opportunities for our children due to poor education that this system has provided them.

    It is a shame and it is unjust that Blacks are stuck in this situation. But what is worse is that our so- called "champions of education" are working to keep Blacks in this system. Ultimately we must ask ourselves, "What sort of reform will bring about the change we need to expand opportunity?" In a word, we need choice and the power that goes with it.

    That is why I and other pastors across the state have formed a new association called Clergy for Educational Options (CEO). We believe school choice is a tool that will empower Black parents to the maximum extent possible and will give us the leverage necessary to secure an adequate education for all children.

    Unfortunately, opponents of reform who are desperate and frightened about losing control over our children are playing the race card - saying that "school choice" is code for "re-segregation." This is a cynical, malicious attempt to kill a proposal that will finally give Blacks equal choice in education. Haven't we had enough racial hatemongering in this state's history?

    Thankfully, Blacks across the state aren't buying this argument. To combat this bleak picture of lost opportunity and grinding poverty, Blacks are establishing their own schools with high academic standards, tight discipline, and absolutely first-class academic outcomes. Anyone who is skeptical should take a day trip to John's Island to see Capers Christian Academy, or visit Russellville to see Theresa Middleton's alternative school, just to name a few. Throughout the state, independent, Black-run schools are thriving, in spite of the segregation "warnings" of the education establishment. In fact, a new association comprised of black independent schools in the state (49 have been identified thus far), has been formally organized so that Black schools and parents will have an even greater voice.

    Our current education system has allowed our schools to decline in quality and thus return to the most segregated state since, well, segregation. This system gives complete control to the government while silencing the voices of parents - Black parents in particular. The results are sadly predictable. Those with the means get an excellent education while our children get shortchanged.

    Nevertheless, I strongly believe that diversity within our classrooms, government, state and churches should be a goal that we all seek to achieve. We owe every child in this state a chance at a good education - whether it's public or private, predominately black or predominately white. Presently, this is not being achieved, so we need reform - now. We should not let the demagogues who oppose school choice play the race card. Racially charged allegations are irresponsible, counterproductive, uncivil and false. Anti-reformers are using it as a tool to distract South Carolinians from considering real solutions to pressing problems. Black parents and students deserve more - they deserve a choice in how and where their children are educated.

    Pastor Revell is the pastor at Agape International Ministries in Rock Hill, SC and is a founding member of Clergy for Educational Options.