July 16 2013

Parental Choice Endorsed—and Exercised—by Rap Star

Vicki E. Alger

Think parental choice is a partisan policy issue? Think again. The politics of choice are as diverse as the parents who struggle to exercise and expand it.

A few weeks ago former NBA basketball star and sports commentator Jalen Rose publicly endorsed parental choice in education. In fact, he has started his own academy. He’s not alone. Sacramento Mayor and former Phoenix Sun Kevin Johnson also founded several academies in the neighborhood where he grew up.

Charter schools are public schools that are privately run without all the district bureaucracy. They are founded by parents and educators and have more freedom to innovate than traditional public schools, yet they are bound by the same admissions, testing, and reporting requirements.

The first charter school opened its doors in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1990. Today, more than 2 million students attend 6,000 charter schools nationwide. They’re controversial with many traditional public school interest groups because charter teachers don’t have to join unions. Typical charter students were struggling at their previous public schools, but those students improve academically in time at a fraction of the traditional district public-school cost--another source of tension for tradtitional district public school advocates.

The Miami Herald, however, is baffled by the charter school support from Rapper Pitbull and Mr. 305, Armando Christian Pérez because “his politics are hard to pin down.” That’s where so many news outlets get it wrong.

Parental choice is not a political movement. It’s a liberty movement—and liberty transcends party lines, as the Miami Herald reports:

The Miami-born son of Cuban exiles is helping build a Little Havana charter school that opens next month and was a featured speaker at the 2013 National Charter Schools Conference in Washington, D.C., where he wowed the crowds.

But Pitbull, the essence of South Florida cool, said he was a little uncomfortable talking about education policy and his family — he has six children; three attend charter schools.

‘I’m so used to making records that to be up here speaking to you all actually makes me nervous, imagínate (imagine)… Every day I see firsthand how my children are becoming highly motivated, thanks to the charter schools they attend…’

Pitbull also spoke about the school he’s helping build, Sports Leadership and Management. Called SLAM, it’s designed to emphasize sports management and has a relationship with the Miami Marlins. …

In Washington, Pitbull sounded like the typical charter-school booster. He told the conference that schools like SLAM, in his old neighborhood, give a chance to kids who otherwise don’t get them.

‘I constantly gave a wrong address to go to a better school…I don’t want anyone in America to have to lie about where they live.’

Neither do we.

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