Is Randi Weingarten Correct that School Choice is A Form of Jim Crow?

Two weeks ago AFT President Randi Weingarten highlighted a new policy brief that showed how school vouchers were used during Jim Crow to segregate school systems. From EdWeek:

In a fiery speech, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, condemned Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ school choice proposals, calling them “only slightly more polite cousins of segregation.”


She told teachers at the AFT Teach Conference in Washington that the country is facing “the result of an intentional, decades-long campaign to protect the economic and political power of the few against the rights of the many. It has taken the form of division—expressing itself as racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia, and homophobia,” she said. “And its intentions are often disguised. For example, take the word ‘choice.'”

“What better way to pave the path to privatize education than to starve public schools to the breaking point, then criticize their shortcomings, and let the market handle the rest? All in the name of choice,” Weingarten said. “That’s how a democracy comes apart.”

Note how Weingarten surreptitiously conflates private school vouchers with parent access to public charter schools, tag-teaming with NAACP’s approval this week of a charter school moratorium and legislation that would require all prospective charter schools to be subject to a local vote. Three notes here: for background on NAACP’s refusal to listen to parents of color that Derrell Bradford called “the worst kind of betrayal” of America’s Black and most disadvantaged families, see Beth Hawkins’ analysis here; for complete context, see Ikhlas Saleem here; for why mandated community approval would stymie all charter school growth, at least in states like N.J. with such strong allegiance to local control that they beg for a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder, see my Lakewood example here.

Today Megan McArdle responds to this absurd new meme that public school choice is somehow equivalent to Jim Crow:

[I]t’s certainly fair to note that people opposed to desegregation decided that one way to solve the problem was to get rid of public schools, allowing racists to choose a lily-white educational environment for their children. Maintaining Jim Crow is a vile motive, and it can’t be denied that that was one historical reason some people had for supporting school choice.


Only the proper answer to this is, So what? You cannot stop terrible people from promoting sound ideas for bad reasons. Liberals who think that ad hominem is a sufficient rebuttal to a policy proposal should first stop to consider the role of Hitler’s Germany in spreading national health insurance programs to the countries they invaded. If you think “But Hitler” does not really constitute a useful argument about universal health coverage, then you should probably not resort to “But Jim Crow” in a disagreement over school funding.

McArdle continues,

[M]embers of the middle class in this country already enjoy quite a lot of school choice; if their local school is awful, they either send their kids to private school, or move. This allows nice liberal parents to proclaim their support for the democratic ideal of a common, public education, while sticking their own kids in an exclusive school…Meanwhile, we look at the schools those parents left behind: at bureaucracy-crusted institutions that can’t teach kids to read, or graduate them. We know that changing a failing institutional culture is hard-to-impossible, which is why so many foundering companies cannot be saved. Call this market fundamentalism, if you like, but it seems to us that sometimes the only solution for a failing institution of any type is for a competitor to put it out of business, or at least force it to up its game. And when we look at decade upon decade of attempts to reform these particular institutions, we see that history seems intent on proving us right.

And then there’s this: NEA and AFT are major funders of the NAACP.

Not to get all conspiratorial or anything — there’s no goose-stepping going on — but these anti-choice lobbying groups are entwined in a number of ways. We’ll leave you with some tweets from Chris Stewart:
Oh, this is interesting. The AFT speaker just said the union has a deal with the NAACP to do a payroll deduction for membership fees. 

Wait. What? AFT members and the share a dues collection system? That raises a lot of questions about control of the ed agenda.

Now y’all know why we must . They no longer belong to parents and young people. They are a subsidiary of the teachers’ union.

What do you think?

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