Education is considered the key to upward mobility, yet many black students remain trapped in failing schools.

And they are significantly more likely to be trapped in such schools than white students.

In Newark, New Jersey, for example, where blacks make up over half the student population, just 6% of black students attend the city’s top-scoring schools for math. By contrast, 85% of white students are enrolled in such schools.

In Portland and Seattle, black students are four times more likely to attend a school scoring in the bottom 20% in math than white students.[i]

Black students often find themselves stuck in substandard schools due to economic circumstances: Their families can’t afford to move to areas with better schools, nor can they afford private school tuition.

As a consequence, black students have fallen behind in academic achievement.

Black high school graduation rates lag behind those of every other population group. Just 76.4% of blacks earned high school diplomas in 2016 compared with 79.3% of Hispanics and 88.3% of whites.[ii]

Graduation rates tell only a small part of the story.

In 2017, only 6% of black high school students taking the ACT (American College Testing) test met all four of the its benchmarks for college readiness. By contrast, 35% of whites and 48% of Asians met all four benchmarks.[iii]

The story was similar with SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test). Just 20% of black students met the College Board’s two benchmarks for college readiness. This compares to 59% of whites and 70% of Asians who achieved these benchmarks.[iv]

Black students are also significantly less likely to enroll in AP (Advanced Placement) and International Baccalaureate courses, less likely to attend schools that offer them and less likely to receive grades on AP exams that allow them to earn college credit.

Black students made up 14.4% of all AP students (while representing about 16% of the student population) but represented just 4.3% of the students receiving exam scores of 3.0 or better – which in the minimum necessary to earn college credit.[v]

ACT, SAT and AP exam results are all strong indicators of success in college.

Black students deserve a better deal in education: One that adequately prepares them for college and career success.

This can be achieved by giving them educational options.

Educational choice would not only help black students directly, but by creating competition for the public schools, it would also indirectly help students who remain in the public schools.

Of the 31 empirical studies examining the impact of private educational choice on public schools, 29 found that educational choice policies improved the quality of public school education.[vi]

Project 21 recommends:

    • Establishing a federal needs-based educational voucher program.
    • Establishing Tax Credit Scholarships (detailed further under “Strengthening Faith-Based Communities”).
    • Funding these efforts, in part, by reducing federal funding for schools failing to meet minimum educational standards.
    • Funding these efforts, in part, by replacing the “Presidential Campaign Fund” (PCF) check box on IRS Form 1040 with a “Low-Income Educational Opportunity Fund” check box soliciting voluntary contributions. With participation in the PCF dropping from 28.7% in 1980 to 6% in 2013 and major party candidates opting out of public financing in recent elections, the PCF is a relic of the past.
    • Improving school security by providing funding from existing resources to equip schools with key card entry doors; requiring security cameras to operate in real time; allowing school personnel (with thorough background checks and extensive training) to keep weapons in secured locations on school property and establishing criminal penalties for school teachers and administrators who seek to resolve law enforcement matters within the school rather than reporting them to authorities.


[i] Michael DeArmond, Patrick Denice, Bethany Gross, Jose Hernandez and Ashley Jochim, “Measuring Up: Educational Improvement and Opportunity in 50 Cities,” Center on Reinventing Public Education, Seattle, Washington, October 2015, available at

[ii] “Public High School 4-Year Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR), by Race/Ethnicity and Selected Demographic Characteristics for the United States, the 50 states, and the District of Columbia: School Year 2015–16,” Common Core of Data, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C., October 25, 2017, available at

[iii] “The ACT Profile Report – National: Graduating Class 2017,” ACT, Inc., Iowa City, Iowa, available at

[iv] Scott Jaschik, “ACT Scores are Up,” Inside Higher Ed, September 7, 2017, available at

[v] Jaschik, “Record Numbers Take Advanced Placement Courses,” Inside Higher Ed, February 21, 2018, available at

[vi] “School Choice FAQs: How Does School Choice Affect Public Schools?” EdChoice, Indianapolis, Indiana, available at