Blacks Unite for School Vouchers

By Cheryl K. Chumley | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

( - While Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore rallies for public education and the teachers' unions, various black organizations in America are united in their push for school voucher programs.

"I will not go along with any plan that would drain taxpayer money away from our public schools and give it to private schools in the form of vouchers," Gore said, during his convention address in Los Angeles.

The problem with that stance, Project 21 Director David Almasi said, is that it not only appears hypocritical to some, but also alienates a percentage of the very same African-American constituency Democrats have considered customarily supportive.

Project 21 is an effort of The National Center for Public Policy Research to "promote the views of African-Americans ... not traditionally echoed by the nation's civil rights establishment," according to the organization's Internet site.

"Everybody talks about how bad the inner school systems are," Almasi said. "A good vital solution to that problem is school vouchers. The thing is, the big liberals who are against this also are the ones who send their children to private schools [like] Al Gore, Jesse Jackson."

The Black Alliance for Educational Options also reportedly advocates the development of a school voucher system. Group spokespeople could not be reached for comment, but their views of education reforms are more closely aligned with those of Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush - who favors vouchers - than with those of Gore, according to an Associated Press article.

"The nation's more than eight million black school-age children should have the means to leave bad public schools," the article quoted one Alliance member as saying.

With education a top concern for voters this November, Republicans could fare well with blacks if they concentrated on the issues, Almasi said in an earlier interview with, and if they reminded the public of the historical aspects of the civil rights movement.

Until the 1960s, the GOP, by many accounts, was the more accepted party for blacks, stemming from Republican President Abraham Lincoln's signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

"The Congressional Quarterly of June 26, 1964 recorded that, in the Senate, only 69 percent of Democrats voted for the Civil Rights Act as compared to 82 percent of Republicans," R.D. Davis wrote in an editorial for Project 21. "In the House of Representatives, 61 percent of Democrats voted for [the Act] ... Republicans, 80 percent."

Southern Democrats, as a group, were overwhelmingly opposed to passage of the civil rights bill, he continued; 92 of the 103 from that party and region in the House voted against the Act.

Davis said Gore's father, Albert Gore Sr., also opposed the Civil Rights Act.

Republican National Committee Deputy Communications Director Mark Pfeifle said party officials do attempt to educate the public about the historical aspects of the Civil Rights Act.

"Republicans believe the new civil rights issue of this century is for more educational opportunities. If one looks at our schools today, it's the same Democrats who voted to keep [blacks] out as who are letting them in today."