Liberal Christian says trapping kids in dreadful schools is 'outrageous and immoral'

April 1, 2014

Brandon Dutcher

In a recent interview with liberal Christian activist Ron Sider, the founder of Evangelicals for Social Action, Marvin Olasky asked this question: “Isn’t the greatest structural problem in American society right now the public school system: It traps some students in schools where they don’t get what they need to advance economically?” Dr. Sider (Ph.D., Yale University) gave an answer that may come as a surprise.

One of the huge injustices is precisely the dreadful schools that large numbers of African-Americans, Latinos, and poor whites have to go to in our great cities. If you compare the kind of quality education that white suburbanites get to what large numbers of inner city African-Americans and Latinos get, it’s simply outrageous and immoral.

Dr. Olasky (who once gave a speech for OCPA entitled “Why School Choice is Compassionate”) followed up with this question: “What if you compare the education that some inner city students get in good Christian schools, compared to what they get in their local public schools?” Sider’s response:

We have two proposals for overcoming the awful education system today: One is to reform the education system, and the other is vouchers. I say, I don’t know which is finally better, so let’s take the very best reform proposals to reform the public schools and let’s test those in a dozen kinds of school districts — big cities, and smaller. Let’s take the best educational voucher approach and let’s test that. Whatever works better for minorities and poor folk, let’s do that. I do have a hunch that vouchers would work better, but I don’t know enough to say we should go that way. … Teachers unions don’t want to have the test. It’s also striking, that at least in some polls, the people most in favor of vouchers are African-Americans, at least between the ages of 25 and 35. Let’s at least have a major test and do what’s best for poorer people. We should certainly correct the injustice where wealthy white suburban folks spend vastly more money per person in their educational system than inner city African-American kinds of communities.