On Monday the New Jersey Working Families protested at a New Jersey State Legislative hearing about tax breaks in cities like Camden. NJ Spotlight described the skirmish as the result of “heavy criticism from Gov. Phil Murphy and progressive activists who make up his base and have called for major reform” of the tax breaks. This same group also objects to public charter schools, particularly in Camden. Click here for a blog post by NJWF’s leader, Sue Altman, decrying the expansion of school choice in Camden, where 55% of parents, almost all of color, have chosen either traditional or renaissance charter schools and where student growth rises every year across what was once the worst school district in NJ.
Last night the #PowerfulParentNetwork protested at Elizabeth Warren’s rally in Atlanta, which she dedicated, according to NPR, to (irony alert) “the history of black women in politics.” PPN, comprised largely of black women as well as civil rights luminary Howard Fuller, objects to Warren’s plan to cut off all federal funding for public charter schools. They were “escorted” out of the rally.
The two protest ended differently: Sue Altman, the head of NJWF, succeeded in her (pre-announced) plan to get dragged out by state troopers.
Warren met with PPN after the rally, although I haven’t heard whether she was swayed by their pleas to reconsider her opposition to school choice, which the majority of parents of color support. (Warren exercised a different version of school choice by sending her child to private school.)
But much of the chatter on social media seems to focus on how the groups are funded. So let’s look.
NJFW’s funding source is elusive (i.e., nothing on its 990) but Sue Altman says that their money comes public worker unions and New Directions New Jersey. That’s redundant: New Directions is the dark money group (still unlit because Murphy wouldn’t sign the bill that would make contributions transparent) run on $5 million from NJEA. So NJFW gets its funding from lobbyists who oppose school choice in order to protect their market share, despite the fact that the majority of parents of color support school choice.
PPN got to Atlanta through a GoFundMe page. One of the leaders is school choice activist Sarah Carpenter, a grandmother of 13 who helped launch a group called Memphis Lift, which aims to give families a bigger voice in K-12 education there. She says she has one goal: “To make sure there is a level playing field, so all children can go to a great school.” Another is Dianechia Fields, who says the funding raised goes for “parents to see Senator Elizabeth Warren and let her know that all parents deserve the right to have choices on the educational options for their children.”
Which group is represents the true values of progressivism? The one that seeks to oppress the voices of parents of color or the one that seeks to lift those voices?
You decide. You know what I think.