SPLC and NEA v. Parents and Kids

By Larry Sand
October 15, 2019

The disgraceful Southern Poverty Law Center is now trying to keep poor parents from getting their kids out of awful schools.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which regularly labels organizations whose politics they disagree with as “Hate Groups,” has jumped head-first into the school choice fray. Just a few weeks ago, they began Public Funds Public Schools, a campaign  which purports to protect “public education” and appropriates every lie that the National Education Association employs to keep its monopolistic gravy train rolling.

NEA and SPLC are hardly strangers. The teachers union has employed SPLC’s over-the-top “Teach Tolerance” protocol for years. Additionally, NEA gave its exalted “Human and Civil Rights Award” to SPLC founder and president Morris Dees in 2016. This was just a few years before Dees was outed as sexual predator who, for many years, had regularly mistreated nonwhite and female staffers. (Dees is in good company; past NEA awardees include America-hating kneeler Colin Kaepernick and perverse “fisting” expert Kevin Jennings.)

While the NEA and SPLC campaign to deny parental choice, the public is moving in the other direction. According to an Education Next poll, released in August, choice is ascending with 55 percent of the general public and 62 percent of parents in favor. Additionally, 62 percent of blacks and Hispanics – the greatest beneficiaries of school choice – are for it. It is worth noting is that just 21 percent of unionized government school teachers support parental choice.

Two weeks ago, the libertarian Cato Institute released results of a poll which revealed that 58 percent of Americans support vouchers, with 69 percent of blacks and 68 percent of Republicans in favor. Interestingly, the survey found that 60 percent of moderate Democrats back choice, but only 36 percent of liberal Democrats are for it.

NEA and SPLC ignore these polls, but instead rely on platitudes to make their case. “The spread of vouchers is a serious threat to education equity and the future of our public schools” from SPLC is typical. But in reality, studies have repeatedly shown that vouchers benefit kids, at least to some degree. In April, researcher Greg Forster reported on the latest empirical school choice research and found that of 19 studies, 14 showed positive results and 2 found no difference. Due to design flaws in the D.C. and Louisiana programs, 3 studies showed negative effects.

Additionally, the “Vouchers hurt public schools” mantra chanted by the education establishment, has once again been proven false. Of the 34 studies Forster looked at, 32 found that choice had a positive effect on public schools. One study showed no effect and one a detrimental effect. Also, 9 out of 10 revealed a positive effect on ethnic integration (one had no visible effect) and 41 showed a positive fiscal effect on taxpayers. Only one reported a negative effect, and 3 had no visible effect.

“Public money should not go to a private school” is another ludicrous argument made by the monopolists. The education establishment praises Pell Grants, in which federal money goes to needy college students and can be used to attend private colleges. The unions and SPLC don’t care that people who are on public assistance and get SNAP cards can use them at privately owned markets. Also, most of our $600 billion defense budget is spent contracting with private companies. Why don’t NEA, SPLC et al. scream about any of this?

Perhaps the most insulting argument the technocratic anti-choicers make is that parents are incapable of choosing the best type of education for their kids. They actually see parents as an impediment to learning, and only enlightened experts who have been “trained, appointed, and funded by the state” know what’s best for children. Mostly this a slap at poor parents. Rich parents, you see, already have school choice. They can move to a zip-code that has good government-run schools or can afford to send their kids to private schools. But parents without means don’t have those options. Yet no one seems to give a rip that the same poor parents who are allowed to choose the food their kids eat, the medicine they take, the clothes they wear, the time they go to bed, etc. should not be trusted to pick their kid’s school – the most important source of influence on their lives outside the home.

As Kerry McDonald, author, policy expert and homeschool mom writes, “At the heart of debates around education freedom and school choice is the subtle but sinister sentiment that parents can’t be trusted. They are too busy, too poor, or too ignorant to make the right decisions for their kids, and others know better how to raise and educate children.”

 As the school choice debate rages on, California has just released the results of its student test scores for 2019. And as usual, they are not pretty. Just 51 percent of all public school students are proficient in English Language Arts and just 40 percent can do grade-level math. In Los Angeles, where the union-led anti-choice fervor is at maximum volume, just 44 percent are proficient in English and one-third are in math.

If SPLC had a shred of honesty and decency, they’d label themselves and the NEA as hate groups.

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Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

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