For all the claims of decadent secularism, school vouchers originated not in religious flight but in white flight. Like so much of the GOP agenda, school privatization is a vestige of the Backlash. So as Reverend Barber observed, we’re back in Civil Rights territory.

To understand the true nature of this debate, it’s important to review its historical roots. Modern vouchers date to 1960’s Atlanta, where whites panicked as blacks entered their neighborhoods. Desperate, white parents devised a scheme to pull funds out of public schools and send them to private White Flight Academies. With that, they maintained a segregated, publicly financed school system.

Vouchers still threaten to resegregate the school system. As “Opportunity Scholarships” become available to the middle class, the subsidies will supplement tuition for homogenous private academies. Poor families, who cannot cover the full cost of tuition, will be stuck in decreasingly diverse public schools. The result will be an educational landscape divided by race and quality.

The impact is as sinister as the optics. These less-funded, less diverse public schools will offer worse opportunities to students. Poor minorities will thus enter the workforce at a disadvantage. In the war over “Opportunity Scholarships,” opportunity will lose.


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