Wall Street Journal columnist Bill McGurn accused progressives of having “given up” on Black students by not focusing on the “structural racism” he says is ubiquitous in big-city public schools and instead throwing more money at the institutions.

“In the past, progressives tried to lift Black achievement,” McGurn, former chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush, wrote in a Tuesday op-ed. “Today, they have given up.” 

McGurn singled out Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., as one of the progressives who have targeted the wrong culprit, frequently condemning critical race theory opponents instead of the schools themselves.

“So why don’t Republicans want us to learn how to not be racist?” she asked on CNN last month. “Why don’t Republicans want kids to know how to not be racist?” 

“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has a point about structural racism,” McGurn said. “Just not the one she thinks.”

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Citing data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, McGurn noted that of the 27 U.S. urban school districts that reported their results for 2019, not one reported a majority of Black eighth-graders as being proficient in either math or reading.

Progressives, he said, have missed the point by eliminating “objective measures of achievement” and by throwing more money at the source of the problem.

“But instead of addressing achievement head on, the progressive answer is to funnel yet more money into the existing failed structure, eliminate tests that expose its failure, and impose race-based preferences to make up for it,” McGurn wrote. 

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, for example, recently eliminated high school graduation proficiency requirements for reading, writing and math, arguing the omissions would benefit minority students. But former teacher and Fox News contributor Leo Terrell was among those who blasted the decision, saying the move would “dumb down” students.

“You lower the standards, you dumb down kids,” he said on “Fox & Friends.” “I think it’s embarrassing, insulting and more importantly, it’s racist because it implies that just because of skin color, you can’t pass a test.” 

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“Instead, they focus on getting rid of the embarrassment by getting rid of the achievement tests that expose it, doubling down on race preferences and trying to hamstring the schools that show Black children can and do learn in the right environment,” McGurn agreed of the progressive effort. 

He suggested activists should instead make it easier for Black children to get into schools where they are achieving, such as charter or parochial schools.

Other education advocates, like Corey DeAngelis, agree, arguing a better use of money would be to directly fund students and families and give them alternatives to public schooling.

“Trapping children in failing government schooling institutions for 13 years without exit options creates systemic inequities,” DeAngelis told Fox News. “We should fund students directly and empower families to access alternatives instead of rewarding a system that continues to fail to meet their needs year after year.”

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He suggested school choice as a solution.

“The most advantaged families already have school choice,” he added. “They can already afford to live in a residence that’s assigned to the best public schools. They can already afford to pay for private school tuition and fees out-of-pocket. Funding students directly would allow more families to access alternatives. School choice is an equalizer.”

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