Subscribe for 33¢ / day

It is the time of year when local newspapers across the state provide Iowans with accounts of our legislators’ sausage making regarding pending laws and annual budget appropriations.

To that end, if you read your local newspaper, it’s clear that both legislative houses in Des Moines are charged with ministering more than a $7 billion budget, hence the sausage making and horse trading among both political parties and the delicate dance between the upper and lower houses of our Legislature.

Given that this is Black History Month compels me to address truth to power, regarding what I deem to be pivotal K-12 pending educational legislation. Please know, I can remember in the southern region of our great nation black children and their families literally risking death seeking a viable K-12 education just a half century ago.

I have taken a strong interest in K-12 education and how the Legislature is grappling with allocating billions of dollars earmarked for K-12 education for this state’s next generation of leadership. From my neophyte analysis, there is a significant best way forward regarding two interesting pieces of proposed educational legislation, open enrollment and the voucher system.

There are some public school districts in the state that have diversity plans, therefore these school district superintendents and school boards appear to have misgivings around open enrollment that may impact their intervention diversity plans.

It is postulated that if this open enrollment legislation is passed, some parents might move their child to a public school of their choice, and if the voucher legislation passes, parents will earmark their voucher/funds to move with their child to another school of their choice.

These two pieces of pending legislation may cause an imbalance of school diversity for some districts and allow parents an opportunity to move their funds in conjunction with their dear child through open enrollment and may cause a two-fold impact of devastation to some public school districts within the state.

We as African-Americans have just one prime directive as it directly relates to where the academic rubber meets the road, and that is to achieve academically no matter what. As African-American parents we must demand of our children to pursue academic achievement no matter who is sitting next to them in the classroom regarding diversity.

Please understand my read of this kind of potential legislation. African-American children residing in Waterloo must not be distracted by this potential challenge. Historically the African-American community has had to overcome formidable challenges to purse a K-12 education against all odds.

We have overcome extreme difficult systematic legislative challenges that directly impacted African-American children in the past. Note that our nation is in a much better place now for African-Americans. No one is stopping us from achieving an outstanding education. There are no Jim Crow laws or separate-but-equal public school systems. That said, I challenge African-American parents and our children currently attending the Waterloo public school system to be clear: No matter what legislation is enacted we must achieve academically.

We must be clear as a community and convey to our children that these pending pieces of legislation will not preclude them from getting up five days a week to arrive at school on time, complete and turn in all classroom assignments and study with laser focus intensity before every test. We must be all in. Just like an athletic championship, our team will meet with unexpected challenges. Winners never quit and quitters never win.

We must not take our eyes off the prize, and it must not hinge on any potential legislation from the state. Failure is not an option.

John Berry, Ph.D., is executive director of Tri-County Child & Family Development Council.


Load comments