Column: Vouchers are a civil rights issue
Florida lawmakers who want to expand vouchers this year are pursuing a "natural extension of the civil-rights movement," writes the Rev. H.K. Matthews, a civil-rights icon from Pensacola, in a column for a new Web site called FloridaThinks.com.
The Tax Credit Scholarship is not a solution for every child, but it is one tool to aid public educators in their efforts to reach at-risk children. Consider this: The high-school graduation rate for African-American males in Florida is 38 percent. More than half of black males in fourth grade can't read at grade level. Too many of our children are failing and dropping out, and I have no patience for those who would deny them educational opportunities ...
I have devoted my life to the cause of social justice for all people in America, particularly black people. I walked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. across the bridge in Selma, sat at segregated lunch counters in Pensacola, and was jailed 35 times during the process. I fought so that the generations that came after me would have an equal opportunity, and nowhere is that more important now than in public education.
Matthews takes a shot at Sen. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, a strong voucher opponent who was quoted in the Feb. 11 St. Petersburg Times story on the proposed expansion. He references Antonio Trigo, a South Florida voucher student who was struggling in public school but is now doing well in private, and then writes:
Unfortunately, there are still a few holdouts in the Democratic Party who mistake this option as an attack on public education. Sen. Frederica Wilson of Miami went so far as to call the existence of the scholarship "not America" by taking children out of public schools and "making them weaker." I wonder what she might say to Antonio, whose academic rise is enriched by a private school in her own legislative district.
(The image shows civil rights activists marching across the bridge in Selma, Ala. on March 7, 1965.)