Parental Choice is Working: Why are the teachers’ union and Hollywood attacking charter schools?

Parental Choice in education is working—and that is why labor union leaders like Randi Weingarten, head of American Federation of Teachers (AFT), are working so hard to defeat choice.

The Wall Street Journal’s Allysia Finley interviewed a leader on a mission, a man with no time to waste (The Weekend Interview, “Why Black Colleges Need Charter Schools,” November 4, 2017).

Johnny C. Taylor Jr. is the head of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, representing 47 historically black colleges ((HBCUs). He grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where his mother made sure he got the best education available. The best option was not the local public school. It was a magnet, the precursor to charter schools, championed in Minnesota by DFL Governor Rudy Perpich.

Mr. Taylor will step down next month after a seven-year tenure during which he has relentlessly promoted charters as a lifeline for black students and a pipeline for historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs. On the heels of the fund’s 30th-anniversary gala last week, Mr. Taylor sat down in a Washington hotel to chat about the challenges HBCUs face and why he thinks parental choice—he doesn’t like the term “school choice”—is a solution.

Much of the article described how HBCUs, born of necessity when blacks were not welcome at American colleges, are struggling to stay afloat, and why Mr. Taylor said:

“Sometimes you have to be careful what you pray for,” Mr. Taylor says. “You wanted diversity, and guess what happened? You got diversity. We have two schools in Missouri, Harris-Stowe State University and Lincoln University of Missouri. Well, while people are screaming bloody murder for the University of Missouri to be more diverse, guess where it’s going to get its students? It’s cannibalizing our campuses.” Here in the nation’s capital, he adds, “Georgetown is going to Howard to pick off their best students.”

Given that we want the best educational opportunity for all Americans, and that black Americans are going to graduate into an integrated workforce, I do not know if keeping all the HBCUs afloat makes sense, or not. Lots of small colleges are struggling all over the country.

But what I do know is that protecting charter schools for people like Mr. Taylor, and all American children, is vital. Mr. Taylor’s leadership and exuberance for freedom is proof that education is still the key to the American Dream because he is living it.

So why would the Randi Weingartens of the world, and sadly even the NAACP, attack an educational choice that is working for young people in our toughest neighborhoods?

Charter schools are the “polite cousins of segregation,” in the words of Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. Last year the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called for a moratorium on charters. Film festivals are screening “Backpack Full of Cash,” a pro-union documentary narrated by Matt Damon that portrays charters as separate and unequal institutions.

First, Weingarten and the AFT do not care about educating children so they can become full citizens in this great country. In fact, the continuing dysfunction in black communities is just grist for their terrible mills. The AFT and its rival cousin the NEA collect hundreds of millions of dollars from forced-union dues in states like Minnesota where hard-working teachers, if they want to keep their jobs, must subsidize AFT’s power and agenda.

The government unions like AFT and NEA attack anything that threatens their powerful monopoly.

Second, very sadly the once great NAACP seems to have been captured by the Left. In Minnesota, leaders like Nekima Levy-Pounds are known more for the division they sow than the lives they uplift and repair. Ironically Black Lives Matter and other divisive campaigns are force-funded by teachers via the unions—without permission or sanction from teachers. (Then we ask teachers to sort out the chaos in the classroom.)

Third, Matt Damon, the rich Hollywood actor who stars in the movie attacking charter schools and other options for parents? He sends his own children to private schools.

Apparently the attacks are working. Finley cited a poll by Education Next showing that support for charter schools had dropped from 51% to 39% just in the last year. “Mr. Taylor attributes the decline in part to the deceptive claim by teachers unions that charter schools are private. They aren’t: Charters are public schools free from union control and under independent management.” But he also said we can do a better job in marketing the idea: he likes “parental choice” over “school choice.”

I like that, too. And I like Mr. Taylor. He was dashing off to give a speech on criminal justice reform funded by none other than the Koch Institute:

 “I hope we all start thinking: What’s in the best interest of the kid? If we let that be sort of our compass, our guiding light, then you don’t care what the union wants. You don’t care about what the NAACP wants.”

Godspeed, Mr. Taylor.