School vouchers would drain money needed for the nation's public school system and would be "devastating" for the nation's black schoolchildren, National Urban League President Marc Morial argued Monday morning.
"Vouchers would be devastating to black kids and it would drain money from public schools into what I call speculative schools in many communities," Morial said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program during a heated argument with former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele.
"I'm curious to see what the real policy is. What we need is to stay the course of commitment above high standard and questionable funding and I hope you'll be open and the administration will be open."
President Donald Trump's administration is considering allowing a tax credit to help working class parents send their children to private schools, after campaigning on a school choice programs.
He has said that schools should compete for students and that charter and magnet schools, along with a voucher system, should be expanded. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is also an advocate of school vouchers.
Steele, though, argued with Morial that parents want choice for their children, including vouchers and charter schools.
"It includes getting up off our butts and doing something for failing public schools right now, beyond the hot rhetoric of we don't want violence," said Steele.
Morial argued, though, that vouchers are "part of the right-wing talking point agenda," and were "a flop" in places like New Orleans.
"They do not work," he said. "They drain money from what we need to do, to focus. Ninety-five percent of kids go to a public school in America. Many work well. Many in inner cities do not work well."
The formula that works in suburban schools, such as parental engagement and a commitment to high standards, need to be applied more to public education.
"Many of the public schools in Baltimore have no, if you will, extracurricular activities and very high student teacher ratios in many inner city schools," said Morial, and while he welcomes innovation, he does not want "rank experimentation, particularly if there is no proof, something like vouchers, that it's really worked."
Steele argued that the Opportunity Scholars program in Washington D.C., which allows vouchers for up to 1,700 students to have a choice in education works.
"I can also tell you as a former lieutenant governor of the state that reviewed our occasional system in Maryland, we put together a competitive strategy that looks at education through the eyes of children leaving nothing off the table," said Steele.
"I agree with a lot of what you're saying, mark, but one size fits all approach is just old school, it is beholding to a strategy that no longer works. You need to give these parents and these kids in these inner cities and urban communities a chance to pull themselves up."
Morial also spoke about going with Ivanka Trump and Small Business Administration Secretary Linda McMahon to to visit one of the National Urban League's entrepreneurship centers in Baltimore.
"She took us up on the offer and a chance for her to learn to about 12 entrepreneurs, women and minority entrepreneurs, to talk about how our program in Baltimore was helping them, how some of our relationships with 10,000 small businesses and other partner organizations was helping them and some of the challenges these entrepreneurs face," said Morial.
"I think she listened very intently. I was impressed with her knowledge and interest in the subject of women and minority entrepreneurs."
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