Journalist Martin to host town hall on school choice

Published 9:02 pm Thursday, August 24, 2017

Roland Martin, a journalist and television personality, is hosting a town hall discussion tonight at Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church that will focus on his “School Choice is the Black Choice” initiative.

The initiative was started in 2016 by Martin and his wife, the Rev. Dr. Jacquie Hood Martin, as a response to the NAACP and The Movement for Black Lives call for a ban on new charter schools and declaring they promote segregation, according to Martin’s website.

“Alabama passed charter schools two years ago, and so far, the state has been slow to embrace school choice. I was contacted by numerous pastors in Alabama who have expressed a desire for me to come to the state to rally supporters on the issue and work with local leaders on launching charter schools,” Martin said in a press release.

James Perkins, former mayor of Selma and pastor for Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, said they were approached about hosting the town hall, and they were glad to host it.

“They needed a safe, open place to have the conversation, and we were eager to oblige. It’s a conversation that needs to take place,” Perkins said. “Ebenezer has always been out front when it comes to community engagement and when it comes to civic and social issues. We’ve never been afraid to tackle them. We’ve always been a congregation that tries to keep people informed. This is nothing new for us.”

Alabama lawmakers passed the Alabama Accountability Act in 2013, which allows students zoned for a school on the failing list to apply for scholarships to schools not on the list.

“I want success for black children, whether it’s traditional public schools; public charter schools; magnet programs; home school; online; or private schools,” Martin added in the release. “All I care about is success; not the delivery system. Black parents have made it clear they are in support of charters and vouchers, and I’m willing to stand with them.”

According to the initiative website, a 2015 poll commissioned by Martin for TV One, a majority of African American parents are interested in sending their children to charter schools.

Martin will speak at 6:30 p.m., and Perkins said anyone interested is welcome.

“We welcome everyone. I think it’s really important,” he said. “It’s not like school choice is not already here, so it’s not a question of whether we need it or not, or whether we want it or not. It’s a question of how we address it, how do we go forward from here.”

He urges parents, educators and community leaders to join in on the discussion.

“This is an opportunity to have a national conversation at the local level. I think it’s one of those rare opportunities, and I’m hoping that parents will come out so they can understand the issue and educators can come out and everyone can share,” he said. “We can have an open dialogue and a safe space and hopefully get something accomplished.”