Teachers’ Union President Says School Choice is Racism

Randi Weingarten—the union boss of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)—took her criticism of school choice to a new low in a fiery speech she gave at AFT’s annual convention in Washington, D.C.

Her baffling statements labeled anyone who supports alternatives to the traditional public school system as racist. And she claimed school choice programs are “only slightly more polite cousins of segregation.”

You hear it all the time these days. School “choice.”

Decades ago, the term “choice” was used to cloak overt racism by segregationist politicians like Harry Byrd, who launched the massive opposition to the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

After the Brown decision, many school districts, especially in the South, resisted integration. In Virginia, white officials in Prince Edward County closed every public school in the district rather than have white and black children go to school together. They opened private schools where only white parents could choose to send their children. And they did it using public money.

But Prince Edward County is not the normative today. Educational choice doesn’t focus on removing white students from integrated schools. It focuses on giving minority students the opportunity to break free from a school system that has a history of failing them.

This is why school choice is overwhelmingly supported and used by racial minorities.

As a former teacher, I taught at a Title I charter school, serving low-income families and minority children. Am I guilty of “increasing racial and economic segregation?”

What about the nearly 400 families at this school who chose a learning environment that would best meet the needs of their child? Are they equivalent to segregationists?

Of course not. Weingarten is linking supporters of the school choice movement to viewpoints they never expressed and fails to mention her public school system still struggles with segregation more than 60 years after the Supreme Court struck it down.

Disparities in public education persist for students of color and poor students. School choice empowers these students and their families. But it threatens the teachers’ union and Ms. Weingarten’s power.