'Advancement of Colored People' No Longer NAACP's Mission
It's all politics, money and power. The kids get left behind.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the 2013-14 school year, 27% of public charter school students across American were black. And thousands more black children — many in urban areas — sit on waiting lists for charters, hoping for a way out of failing, and sometimes even violent, schools. Well, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) apparently believes these black children aren’t worth “advancing.”
In a move providing a glimpse into the true nature of the supposed civil rights organization, the NAACP earlier this month adopted a resolution “calling for a moratorium on charter school expansion.” This moratorium may be lifted when, among other things, “charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools” and “public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system.”
The irony is astounding. For starters, if public schools are the benchmark for greatness, we’ve got some pretty low standards. Case in point: the thousands of children and families trying to flee traditional public schools for the very public charters the NAACP wants to limit.
Furthermore, education funds are not intended to prop up a failing “system”; they’re meant to educate children. What a revolutionary idea. But the NAACP would rather use education tax dollars to fund “the system” while black children languish in subpar schools.
But it gets worse. In opposing new charters, the NAACP is aligning itself squarely with the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions: the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). As Rishawn Biddle, education advocate and publisher of Dropout Nation, writes, “Between 2010-2011 and 2014-2015, NEA and AFT increased its contributions to NAACP and its affiliates by six-fold (from $25,000 to $151,700); the outfit collected $380,500 from the two unions within that period.”
Now, Biddle notes these aren’t large sums — but there’s more than money behind this alliance. NAACP’s board also has close ties to multiple unions, including AFT, the United Food and Commercial Workers International (UFCW), and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). What do these unions have in common? They persistently oppose expanding school choice for America’s children. Why would unions — particularly teachers’ unions like the NEA and AFT that are supposedly pro-education — want to block charters?
Well, that does go back to money, and power. You see, these union bosses aren’t concerned about children leaving traditional public schools as much as they’re concerned about money leaving union coffers. The more teachers who are in traditional public schools, the more teachers the unions can require to become members — and pay dues — as part of their job requirements. Charter school teachers are not unionized. The more members the unions can capture, the more money the unions can collect. And the more money the unions collect, the more they can donate to leftist political candidates who will be friendly to union positions.
Consider, for example, that the NEA has spent more than $15 million this election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The top recipient of this money has been the NEA Advocacy Fund which, in this election cycle, has spent nearly $400,000 in independent expenditures in support of Democrats and more than $3 million against Republicans. And, of course, the NEA and AFT were early out of the gate to endorse Hillary Clinton for president.
Which brings us back to the NAACP’s absurd resolution to halt the expansion of charter schools. As Star Parker recently wrote, “One hundred and sixty black education leaders across the nation, including former education secretary Rod Paige, wrote to the NAACP urging that they not approve this resolution.” The letter pointed to the “nearly 700,000 Black families choosing to send their children to charter public schools and the tens of thousands more who are still on waiting lists.”
But when the NAACP was faced on the one hand with hundreds of thousands of black children hoping and praying for better educational opportunity and, on the other, powerful teachers’ unions intent on padding their coffers and expanding their control, they chose the union over the children. By so doing, NAACP has forfeited any right it had to claim to advocate for black children in America.