Three Fox News figures touted "school choice" as an appropriate response to the recent riots in Baltimore, faulting the city's "awful" and "worst schools on earth" for the violence. But their allegations ignore evidence that Baltimore public school students have made significant achievement gains over the past several years.
Protests broke out in Baltimore over the weekend following the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died on April 19 from a spinal cord injury he sustained while in police custody a week earlier. Peaceful protests that devolved into violence led Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to impose a weeklong, citywide 10 p.m. curfew, and both the Baltimore Police Department and the U.S. Department of Justice are investigating Gray's death.
On Fox News, contributor Charles Krauthammer, frequent guest Rudy Giuliani, and host Gretchen Carlson touted "school choice" in separate discussions of the riots, insinuating that Baltimore public schools are to blame for the violence. On the April 28 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, Krauthammer cited "the worst schools on Earth" as one of "two issues in the inner cities," concluding, "If you want to do something, let them choose their school."
From the March 25 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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Fox News championed a campaign to encourage healthy school nutrition in an interview with New York Giants player Victor Cruz, sharply contrasting with the network's long history of attacking similar efforts as government fiat.
On the March 4 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Victor Cruz promoted Fuel Up to Play 60, the "nation's largest in-school wellness program." The initiative, a partnership between the National Football League and the National Dairy Council, aims to encourage support for school nutrition by creating "a system for increasing breakfast participation by delivering reimbursable meals to classrooms for student consumption before or during class," pointing to research that suggests offering "breakfast free to all children improve[s] student achievement, diets and behavior."
Cruz's campaign received a warm welcome by the Fox & Friends co-hosts who donned Cruz jerseys while interviewing him during National School Breakfast Week. Co-host Steve Doocy lauded Cruz for working to ensure "every kid in America is eating a healthy breakfast." Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck praised Cruz's campaign, saying, "I know how important you understand nutrition is for kids. You do so much for kids, and this Play 60 campaign that you're running with here is so important. Tell us about why breakfast really counts for kids":
Fox News host Bill Hemmer claimed that job losses due to sequestration "apparently ... did not happen," ignoring that hundreds of layoffs across industries like national security and education were attributable to sequestration's budget cuts.
On the February 3 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, host Hemmer took issue with a statement made by President Obama in February 2013 in which he asserted that if sequestration happened, "thousands of Americans who work in fields like national security, education or clean energy are likely to be laid off." Hemmer replied "so, apparently that did not happen."
In fact, a wide range of organizations related to national security were forced to lay off employees, among them defense contractors, workers at a nuclear site, army depot employees, and employees at a company that repairs U.S. Navy ships.
In the field of education, which Obama mentioned, the effects of sequestration included teacher layoffs in states like Florida, Illinois, Minnesota and New Jersey. Valuable educational programs, like Head Start, were unable to get funding, which resulted in widespread teacher job losses.
Another field that was heavily hit by the effects of sequestration was science and medical research, with hundreds of scientists, including those working on cancer and HIV research, laid off due to the resulting budget cuts.
Despite studies that consistently point to discrimination as the cause for disproportionately harsh discipline on students of color, a National Review Online article falsely suggested that unrelated black crime rates and "family breakdown" are to blame.
On March 21, the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights released new data, including this snapshot on school discipline which found "disproportionately high suspension/expulsion rates for students of color."
In a March 24 post, NRO's Heather Mac Donald criticized the Department of Education study for highlighting the racial disparity in school discipline, claiming without evidence that the black crime rate, not discrimination, "explains the school-suspension rate":
Black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at ten times the rate of white and Hispanic males of the same age combined. Given such high crime rates, what do the civil-rights advocates and the Obama administration think is going on in the classroom -- docile obedience and strict self-discipline? In fact, the same weak impulse control that leads to such high crime rates among young black males inevitably means more disruptive behavior in school.
Mac Donald proceeded to discuss the recent story of a 14-year-old who opened fire on a New York bus, asking, "Did anyone doubt the race of the killer, even though the media did not disclose it?" She concluded her piece blaming "family breakdown" as another factor behind student behavior that leads to the disparities in discipline among children of different races, calling it "common sense that black students are more likely to be disruptive":
None of the federal studies mention or control for single-parent households, of course. Instead, we are supposed to believe that well-meaning teachers, who have spent their entire time in ed school steeped in the doctrine of "white privilege" and who are among the most liberal segments of the workforce, suddenly become bigots once in the classroom and begin arbitrarily suspending pacific black children out of racial bias ... Given the black-white crime disparities, it is equally common sense that black students are more likely to be disruptive in class as well.
The refusal to take student behavior and family breakdown into account in interpreting student discipline rates means that more millions of taxpayer dollars will be wasted suing hapless school districts for phantom racism and sending teachers and administrators back to anti-racism training. The advocacy and anti-bias training complex cleans up, while the root cause of student misbehavior still goes unaddressed.
Despite Mac Donald's claims, experts and studies find discrimination as a cause of the racial disparity in school discipline. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that research shows "[e]ven when they commit the exact same offense as white students, black students suffer more severe consequences," and the Education Department's snapshot showed similar discipline disparities even between students with disabilities, finding "[b]lack students represent 19% of students with disabilities served by [the Integrated Disability Education and Awareness Program], but 36% of these students who are subject to mechanical restraint."