BALTIMORE -- Legendary entertainment superstar and education advocate Dr. Bill Cosby is urging families across the nation to get involved in National School Choice Week, January 23-29, 2011, arguing that school choice provides nothing less than an educational lifeline to low-income families. Cosby also said that school choice is an essential component to reviving America's inner-cities.
Saying that information about the quality of inner-city education is too often filtered from parents by special interests dedicated to protecting the educational status quo, Cosby argued that more parents would demand educational choice if they understood the facts: that a higher quality education "lowers crime rates and makes things better in terms of jobs offered."
Cosby, whose career has spanned more than 50 years, rose from a poor Philadelphia neighborhood and has reached hundreds of millions of people around the world through shows like The Cosby Show, was joined in a telephone conference call today by Michelle Bernard, president of The Bernard Center for Women, Politics & Public Policy and MSNBC political analyst; by three Baltimore city students featured in the 2005 documentary, The Boys of Baraka; and by Imam Earl S. El-Amin of the Muslim Community Cultural Center of Baltimore.
"I've seen the people at 4 o'clock in the morning waiting, hoping that they would win a seat for their child in a better school. This is not fair. Parents deserve more choices. I hope parents across the country will learn more about National School Choice Week," said Dr. Bill Cosby, who participated in the kick-off conference call. "If you've never seen the documentary, The Boys of Baraka, and if you care about young, urban, lower-economic America, and the education we provide our children, please give this your attention."
Cosby and Bernard said that the students featured in The Boys of Baraka demonstrated the power of school choice -- and that most children don't have to travel around the world to find great schools. The film chronicles the educational journeys of children who went from failing Baltimore public schools to Kenya, where they attended a private boarding school and advanced academically.
"I grew up in foster care with my grandparents, due to my parents being addicted to drugs. In Baltimore, I was the class clown," said Devon Brown, a student featured in the documentary. "When I went to the Baraka School, it gave me the opportunity to experience something different. I think other students should have the same chances."
The group praised efforts to provide children with access to better schools -- including private schools, public charter schools, virtual schooling, and homeschooling. National School Choice Week, January 23-29, 2011, will shine a spotlight on the need to enhance educational options for every child.
"School choice is a civil rights issue," Bernard said. "It is the natural extension of Brown v. Board of Education, of what Thurgood Marshall and Dr. Martin Luther King talked about -- access to great schools for families. Parents marched for equal rights; today, they should be marching for school choice. National School Choice Week is designed to educate the American public about the broad coalition of people who believe that our nation has a moral obligation to make sure that every single child in this country has access to the very best education possible."