MEA Lobbyist Calls Advocates of Educational Choice "Racist"

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has been at the forefront of advocating educational choice, a concept that today is sweeping the country. It takes many forms—from allowing parents to send their children to any public school within their local district to vouchers and tuition tax credits for use at private schools. Advocates of all forms of choice share a sincere desire to empower parents, invigorate the system with competition, and give children new hope and opportunity. In Michigan, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy works with school officials, parents and legislators to implement choice in ways that improve the overall quality of education.

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The MEA, however, has been the state’s most vociferous opponent of any kind of choice. It dragged its feet on choice within districts. It opposed choice across district lines. It opposed the creation of charter schools, which are new public schools authorized by public universities or public school districts.

In 1991, the Mackinac Center published a study titled "Educational Choice for Michigan," which explained why educational choice is the most important reform that can be enacted. Despite the fact that he had not read the study, MEA chief lobbyist Al Short branded as "racist" anyone who supports private school choice plans such as vouchers. Short told the Midland Daily News, "My reaction is that any group pushing for a voucher plan is basically racist in nature."

If Mr. Short had bothered to secure a copy of the study before attacking it, he would have noted that its co-author was a prominent University of Detroit-Mercy School of Law professor Harry Hutchison, a black man. In addition, the study examined several of the private inner-city Detroit schools which provide for minority students an oasis of sound learning in a school district infamous for its mismanagement. The study advocated providing more low-income parents the opportunity to send their children to these successful schools. An association of black Detroit clergy has recently expressed support for a voucher program for low-income inner-city children.

The Mackinac Center has given Mr. Short an opportunity to recant his charges and apologize to the many sincere advocates of educational choice. He has refused to do so.