Can’t understand why the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Movement for Black Lives have issued proclamations opposing the expansion of school choice and Parent Power for the very black families for which they proclaim to care? The answer can be found in the annual financial statements of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions.
Over the past five years, the Big Two unions have worked zealously to co-opt black and other minority-oriented groups. Having been on the defensive against school reformers for most of the past decade, NEA and AFT used their considerable coffers to subsidize organizations in exchange for support for their agenda. For the most part, it hasn’t worked out nearly as well as the unions have expected. The $300,000 NEA and AFT gave to Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in 2014-2015, for example, hasn’t stopped the controversial civil rights activist from being a strong supporter for expanding public charter schools, while outfits such as the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights have sparred with the Big Two over federal accountability rules contained over the now-abolished No Child Left Behind Act.
Yet the Big Two’s vast spending has managed to gain it some allies. One of the biggest: NAACP, which has long ago abandoned its admirable leading role on civil rights and school reform that included spearheading litigation that led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s abolition of Jim Crow segregation in Brown v. Board of Education. Between 2010-2011 and 2014-2015, NEA and AFT increased its contributions to NAACP and its affiliates by a six-fold (from $25,000 to $151,700); the outfit collected $380,500 from the two unions within that period.
For these paltry sums over that period (especially when compared to what National Action Network has received in one year alone), NAACP has repaid the Big Two with almost complete adherence to their agenda. This includes last week’s passage of the resolution calling for a moratorium on expanding charter schools, the most-popular option for black families otherwise forced to attend failure mills in their communities. Even with numerous polls showing strong support among black families for charters and other forms of school choice, overwhelming evidence that high-quality charters are successful in improving student achievement, and support for choice among some of NAACP’s own affiliates, the old-school civil rights groups has been all too willing to join common cause with those who don’t have the interests of black children at heart.
But the NAACP’s allegiance to NEA and AFT isn’t just about money. Among the influential members of NAACP’s 64 member board: Hazel Dukes, whose long (and often infamous) tenure as head of its Empire State affiliate included teaming up with the AFT’s United Federation of Teachers in an unsuccessful effort to stop the Big Apple from renting space in half-empty traditional school buildings to charter schools. Dukes is also notorious for accusing parents of charter school students of “doing the business of slave masters”.
Another top NAACP board member is Adora Obi Nweze, the president of the group’s Florida branch, which joined the NEA’s and AFT’s Florida affiliate in its unsuccessful suit to end that state’s school choice program. Last year, the Florida NAACP convinced the national association to pass a resolution reaffirming its longstanding opposition to vouchers and other forms of choice.
The strong ties alone between Dukes (who remains NAACP’s most-influential board member) and AFT alone, along with the presence of Baby Boomer teachers in the outfits membership, all but ensures that the concerns of black families are secondary to traditionalist interests. Even if Dukes and Nweze weren’t on the board, NAACP would be more than a tad willing to go along with NEA’s and AFT’s agenda. This is because the association’s board has strong ties to the unions that make up AFL-CIO, the labor confederation in which AFT (along with more than a few NEA affiliates) is an influential member. This includes James Settles, Jr., a vice president of the United Auto Workers; Robin Williams (an apparatchik with the United Food and Commercial Workers International); and William Lucy of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, a key AFT ally.
But as noted earlier, NAACP is one of the few old-school civil rights groups on which NEA and AFT can count on as a reliable ally. So the Big Two have had to cultivate new alliances though a strategy of wrapping themselves in the language of social justice. This includes working to co-opt activists within the criminal justice reform and Black Lives Matter movements.
Certainly the Big Two unions are using their coffers to win at least some of those activists over. But it isn’t just a matter of money. As any civil rights-oriented school reformer can tell you, NEA and AFT have learned long ago that extending helping hands, from meeting spaces to using fax machines to simply endorsing a platform, goes a long way in winning alliances. This is something reformers, more-concerned with policymaking and institution-building, have never understood.
That many in the school reform movement have either been reluctant or outright hostile about working with Black Lives Matter and criminal justice reform activists on addressing issues that are tied to schools (including overuse of harsh school discipline and the penchant of traditional districts to refer children to juvenile courts), has also made it easy for NEA and AFT to win over some activists.
This partially-successful co-opting by NEA and AFT can be seen in the manifesto issued by Movement for Black Lives this week (which hasn’t been championed by such leading lights within the Black Lives Matter and criminal justice reform movements as Deray McKesson). The declaration itself was written not by the Black Lives Matter activists within the coalition, but largely by two of NEA’s and AFT’s prime vassals.
One of the coauthors, Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, has long been a front for the Big Two. Besides counting NEA and AFT among its members, the coalition includes vassals such as the Schott Foundation for Public Education (which collected $725,000 from the two unions between 2013-2014 and 2014-2015), and Center for Popular Democracy (a recipient of $1 million in teachers’ union money in that same period whose board includes AFT President Rhonda (Randi) Weingarten on its board). Another coauthor, Philadelphia Student Union, has been one of AFT’s lead groups in its effort to oppose systemic reform and school choice in the City of Brotherly Love; it collected $20,000 from AFT in 2013-2014.
Given the presence of these groups, along with the presence of Alliance for Educational Justice (another group backed by AFT), it is little wonder why so much of the “manifesto” focuses on opposing choice and Parent Power, as well as calling for districts to stop hiring recruits trained by Teach For America, the teacher quality reform outfit that has long been the bane of the Big Two’s existence. [This is even before you consider that, unlike NEA and AFT, Teach For America has actually recruited more black men and women into teaching, as well as supported the work of Black Lives Matter activists such as McKesson and Brittany Packnett (a Teach For America staffer).] The manifesto proclaims to raise questions about the role of black families and communities in shaping the schools that serve their children. But because it merely consists of NEA and AFT talking points, it spends more time making laughable claims about “privatization” of education even though most children still attend traditional public schools.
The fingerprints of NEA and AFT can also be seen in what Movement for Black Lives either ignores or barely touches on: Zip Code Education policies such as zoned schooling and restrictions on intra-district choice that force black families to send their kids to dropout factories that put them on the path to poverty and prison. The overuse of out-of-school suspensions, referrals to juvenile justice systems and other forms of harsh traditional school discipline that all but a few NEA and AFT affiliates strongly support. The near-lifetime employment rules through tenure and teacher dismissal policies defended by NEA and AFT that deny high-quality teaching to black children. The traditional district bureaucracies, often influenced by NEA and AFT locals through campaign donations, that do everything possible to oppose Parent Trigger measures and other tools that give black families lead decision making roles in the schools that serve their children.
Certainly no one should expect NEA and AFT to care about the lives and futures of black children and their families. They have long ago proven that their concerns are elsewhere. But there is no reason why NAACP and Movement for Black Lives are siding with the Big Two in perpetuating the educational genocide that has enslaved and destroyed the minds and futures of the black children for which they are supposed to be concerned. In the process, both (along with the reform movement itself) have wasted an important opportunity to reshape systemic reform in a way that puts black children and families at the center. What a shame.
About the Author: RiShawn Biddle is Editor and Publisher of Dropout Nation — the leading commentary Web site on education reform — a columnist for Rare and The American Spectator, award-winning editorialist, speechwriter, communications consultant and education policy advisor. More importantly, he is a tireless advocate for improving the quality of K-12 education for every child. The co-author of A Byte at the Apple: Rethinking Education Data for the Post-NCLB Era, Biddle combines journalism, research and advocacy to bring insight on the nation’s education crisis and rally families and others to reform American public education. This article originally appeared in Dropout Nation and is republished here with permission from the author.
The once righteous civil rights organization is now in thrall to the teachers unions.
From the horrors of lynching to the injustice of forced school segregation, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has been there fighting for the rights of black people. But that has changed, at least in the realm of education.
At their national convention in Cincinnati in late July, the delegates of this once venerable civil rights organization voted for a resolution that called for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools in the U.S. Embarrassingly, the NAACP’s talking points and verbiage come directly from the teacher union playbook with all the inherent fibs, half-truths and exaggerations intact. For example, a part of the resolution informs us that charter schools “have contributed to the increased segregation rather than diverse integration of our public school system” and that weak oversight of charters “puts students and communities at risk of harm, public funds at risk of being wasted, and further erodes local control of public education.” Every word in those quotes is a lie including “and” and “the.” (H/T Mary McCarthy) But when you are in bed with the teachers unions, speaking the truth is not a high priority.
Unacknowledged by the NAACP is that access to charter schools gives blacks and other minorities a great opportunity to escape lives of poverty and/or crime in many urban areas. Most studies show that charters (which are public schools) outperform traditional public schools, and that minorities and the poor are the biggest winners. Typical is a study released by Stanford researchers in 2013 that showed black students gained the equivalent of 14 days of learning by attending charter schools and that black students living in poverty saw even greater benefits, gaining the equivalent of 29 days in reading and 36 days in math. Also, a 2015 poll showed that 72 percent of black parents favored charter schools, with just 13 percent opposing.
So why is the NAACP taking this stance?
There are 380,500 reasons, according to education reformer/writer RiShawn Biddle. That’s how many dollars the anti-charter National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers have donated to the NAACP over the last five years. No one is more outraged at the blatant NAACP sell-out than Dr. Steve Perry, founder of the highly successful Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Connecticut, where100 percent of its high school graduates go on to college. Speaking angrily about the NAACP on Roland Martin’s TV show, Perry said, “They couldn’t be more out of touch if they ran full speed in the other direction… This is more proof that the NAACP has been mortgaged by the teachers union and they keep paying y’all to say what they want to say… The group that has most benefited from school choice in general and charters in specific are African-American males… You want to stop the school-to-prison pipeline? Then stop sending Black boys to failed schools that keep funding the NAACP through teachers union dues.” Not to be missed is an appearance by Perry on a podcast with RiShawn Biddle. Perry does a 17 minute rant that the NAACP and all who favor the status quo should be forced to listen to.
The NAACP and its teacher union benefactors never get around to explaining the above-mentioned Stanford study or why there are over a million kids nationwide on charter school wait-lists, desperately trying to escape their zip-code mandated school.
They never get around to explaining why, in a Quinnipiac poll released just last week, New Yorkers believe by a 2-1 margin that access to charters should be increased. In fact, in the same survey, 51 percent said they would prefer to send their child to a charter school.
They never get around to explaining why test scores just released by New York State show 94 percent of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy students – almost all minority – passed the 2016 math exam and 82 percent passed the reading exam. By comparison, just 38 percent of students in traditional public schools met state reading standards this year, and 36 percent did so in math.
They never get around to explaining why, in California, 52 percent of students attending charters that serve a majority of high poverty kids are in the top quartile of all public schools statewide as opposed to just 26 percent of similar students attending traditional public schools.
As Steve Perry puts it, the national organization is “old and out of touch.” RiShawn Biddle adds that the NAACP is basically saying, “Black lives don’t matter.” The only good news for the NAACP is that many of its locals, which are much more in touch with the needs of black people, are very much pro-charter.
As for the teachers unions, their professed sympathies for the plight of minorities via their incessant “progressive” chatter go on unabated. But at the end of the day, many of their policies are really more in line with George Wallace, whose primary goal was to keep blacks “in their place.” It’s truly disgraceful.
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.
A corrupt union official who orchestrated massive campaigns involving identity fraud in furtherance of voter fraud and who covered up a million-dollar embezzlement will soon have unfettered access to confidential information on thousands of people seeking health insurance.
That man is disgraced ACORN founder Wade Rathke, and his shady union will soon be helping people enroll in Obamacare exchanges. Rathke’s labor vehicle, United Labor Unions (ULU) Local 100 in New Orleans, announced on its Facebook page September 15 that it was gearing up “to do mass enrollment and help navigate people into the marketplaces in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas under the Affordable Care Act.”
“Local 100’s role as a Navigator, suggest[s] the program is less about health care and more about building a new progressive infrastructure,” said longtime ACORN-watcher Mike Flynn of Breitbart.com.
The now-defunct 400,000-member ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) was the nation’s pre-eminent protest group to be inspired by the work of Saul Alinsky. ACORN has a long relationship with the labor union movement. In 1979, ACORN created the United Labor Unions, which it used to organize low-wage, fast-food, and home healthcare workers in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas.
The former employer and legal client of Barack Obama, ACORN is the nonprofit group that knowingly hired felons convicted of identity theft to work on voter registration drives, giving them custody of sensitive voter information.
As one of us, Matthew Vadum, shows in the ACORN exposé Subversion Inc. (WND Books, 2011), ACORN is infamous for such practices as hiring felons without bothering to do background checks, storming hospital emergency rooms and city council chambers, using voter fraud to turn graveyards across the nation into Democratic electoral strongholds, and using mob violence against bank executives and other shakedown targets. The organization has a record of ruthlessly exploiting its own employees, even going to court to seek an exemption from minimum wage laws. ACORN’s record was so atrocious that one of the two union locals it controlled, Local 100, was kicked out of the SEIU, America’s most prominent radical union. (The other, Local 880 in Illinois, was absorbed by a larger SEIU bargaining unit.)
The group collapsed three years ago after a series of long, painful scandals. In mid-2008 Wade Rathke was caught covering up his brother’s theft of approximately $948,000, some of it from ACORN pension funds. After ACORN’s national board expelled the group’s own founder, foundations ran away from the group. In fall 2009, undercover videos by James O’Keefe III and Hannah Giles showed ACORN employees giving advice on how to lie to the government, commit tax fraud, and trick banks into providing loans for brothels.
ACORN had received some $79 million in federal taxpayers’ money over the years, but after the O’Keefe/Giles exposé the government spigot was cut off and those donors who were not already put off by the embezzlement scandal stopped giving. The group went bankrupt. Today, however, although ACORN the nonprofit entity may be dead, its many successor groups are operating under different names (see “ACORN International” in the October Organization Trends).
ACORN’s resurrected groups aren’t the only ones involved in the effort to “sell” Obamacare. Many left-wing groups that have not signed contracts with the Department of Health and Human Services or received government grants to enroll new patients have nonetheless pledged to help promote the exchanges being created under Obamacare. Each recognized “Champion of Coverage” group vows to promote enrollment by emailing its members, hanging posters or giving out fact sheets and brochures, holding conference calls, or promoting enrollment in other ways. The HHS list of groups involved in the effort includes such left-wingers as Families USA, AARP, the League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the National Council of La Raza (“The Race” in Spanish), and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund.
Along the way, the Navigator effort will be aided by Hollywood. According to Newsmax, the Obama administration is “turning its focus on primetime television series, using the influential platform and the power of celebrity to spread the word about its healthcare initiative.”
With the White House’s blessing, the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Norman Lear Center, which has a “Hollywood, Health & Society program,” has accepted a $500,000 grant from the left-wing California Endowment to get pro-Obamacare information to TV producers, writers, and directors so they can incorporate it into their programs. It will also generate public service announcements to mirror the TV shows’ storylines.
The USC program also promotes Global Warming theory. Officials boast that the program’s “storytelling resources” contributed to more than 550 Hollywood storylines over just three years on programs ranging from “Mad Men” to “All My Children” and from “The West Wing” and “Desperate Housewives” to “Malcolm in the Middle” and the news show “60 Minutes.”
Navigators of the Left
One reason most unions still support Obamacare is the huge influx of cash it provides to the Left’s organizing efforts for the 2014 election and beyond. Obamacare regulations provide for the hiring of an army of “Navigators” who will help “educate” the public about the program, at an initial cost of at least $53 million. Navigators come largely from unions such as the SEIU and that union’s left-wing political allies such as the NAACP and the Urban League. The abortion industry will also provide Navigators, with more than $1 million going to Planned Parenthood in Montana, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Washington, D.C.
Obamacare may be considered too complex for the average citizen or even the average Ph.D. to understand, but the Navigators will be hired without regard to minimum educational requirements, and they’ll receive only about 20 hours of training before starting work at a pay rate of up to $48 an hour.
They will be hired without licensing or standard background checks, even though they will have access to Americans’ most personal information, ranging from employment and income history and Social Security numbers to a person’s record of medical conditions and pharmaceutical use. That information will come from a “data hub” that gathers personal records from at least seven government agencies, including the IRS, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Social Security Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security. “Besides the obvious identity theft concerns, this is a frightening development in light of the political activities and invasion of privacy, which the IRS and others have engaged in during the Obama presidency,” noted Gov. Bobby Jindal (R- La.).
Jindal, formerly the top adviser to the HHS Secretary in George W. Bush’s administration, is painfully aware of ACORN’s antics over the years. He warns that the Obamacare Navigator program, like all of Obamacare, is deeply flawed. “‘Navigator’ is a crafty name, but in reality, there are very few restrictions on who they are, and what exactly they are supposed to be doing,” Jindal said. “‘Navigators’ are supposed to be hired to help consumers understand the law and the insurance coverage provisions in the new health exchanges. Sounds like a job for a rocket scientist.
“The Navigators are prohibited from having financial ties to an insurance company, but other than that there are few constraints. Union organizers and community activists are among the types that are allowed to be hired as Navigators, and having prior experience working in the healthcare field doesn’t seem to necessarily be a prerequisite for the job.”
Turning the tide
Here’s what’s likely to happen: Funded by taxpayers, Navigators will promote the idea that Obamacare is a historic achievement by a kind and loving federal government, one for which we should all be grateful. They will also register people to vote [ref. screenshot preceding this section]. They will build profiles of voter preferences based on their personal information, and build door-to-door networks that will be used to turn out the vote for favored candidates. Their efforts will focus especially on states and districts with key races that will decide control of Congress.
Speaking last year at a convention of the National Action Network, headed by the radical preacher Al Sharpton, HHS Secretary Sebelius declared: “In our country what we know is health care inequality [has been] one of the most persistent forms of injustice, but over the past three years, as Rev. Sharpton reminded us, we have begun to turn the tide. Now is not the time to turn back.”
Matthew Vadum is editor of Organization Trends and Foundation Watch at the Capital Research Center. Steven J. Allen is editor of Labor Watch. This post is the second of a three-part series originally published by Labor Watch, a project of the Capitol Research Center, and is published here with permission.