[Rev. Manuel L. Sykes is] a Democrat. He’s president of the NAACP in St. Petersburg, Fla. He thinks public schools did a fine job with his kids.
Privatizing schools? Mention the idea to Sykes, who is pastor of Bethel Community Baptist Church, and you’ll get a slow burn about elitism, resegregation and crony capitalism.
But Sykes, 55, also supports vouchers and tax credit scholarships. And for folks who think they see a contradiction, he offers a quip and a laugh: "Stereotyping is a function of a lazy mind."
Sykes isn’t a leader in the school choice movement, but like thousands of others he quietly defies the story line. In that respect, he is symbolic of the new face of public education. It’s not public or private. It’s not liberal or conservative. It’s pragmatic.
"You can’t plant roses in every environment," Sykes told redefinED. "You have to find the right environment for that flower. Or that orange tree. Or that apple tree. If we're wise enough to know that with trees, why don’t we have the same common sense with children?"