Takeaways From the NAACP Task Force’s ‘Quality Education’ Hearing in Orlando.

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On Friday, January 27th, the NAACP continued their series of education hearings, held by a special task force to “to gain further knowledge, engage in debate, and take action” as a response to the backlash to their ‘moratorium’ on charter schools. After hearings in New Haven, Connecticut and Memphis, Tennessee, the third of seven hearings took place last weekend in Orlando, during the Florida NAACP state conference.

Held at the Rosen Centre Hotel, the event was lightly attended (<100 in attendance) and saw a format of rotating presentations and testimony to the task force, who would follow up with a few questions. After the greetings, opening remarks and presentations, the panel took a (very) short series of questions and answers from those in attendance.

Here are a few notes from the event:

The most important voices – stakeholders – were largely absent. 

While the NAACP claimed the purpose of the task force was to have a national “stakeholder convening”, those voices were nearly completely absent at this hearing. The event began at 2:00 pm in the afternoon on a weekday, leading one to question how said stakeholders would able to attend in the first place.

The most relevant voices of parents, students, and educators who see the inside of these schools daily, were mostly missing. Late into the proceedings, one of the few youth voices to be heard, Brendien Mitchell, a member of the Youth and College Division of the Florida NAACP, noted it was worth discussion that the younger voices were not heard until the end of the hearing.

If the NAACP is genuine in their desire to convene stakeholders and engage in productive conversation, they ought to reconsider their methods. Unfortunately, the format at this hearing was not conducive to that goal. Perhaps they should consider making the next gathering more accessible and open to parents, students and educators.

The lack of youth in the audience was reflected by the actual task force. At one point, the head of the panel noted “you should know that we do have a young person on this task force.. but he could not be here today”.

The NAACP showed a disturbing deference to AFT president Randi Weingarten and felt the need for a police presence. 

For some reason, American Federation of Teachers President, Randi Weingarten was treated as some kind of rock star or guest of honor at the hearing. Prior to her presentation, the head of the task force told the audience to stand, and give Ms. Weingarten a rousing ovation. This moment was odd to say the least, and suffice it to say, calling for a standing ovation for the teachers’ union head did not reflect well on the supposed unbiased nature of the hearing.

Midway through her presentation, educational advocate and former head of Black Lives Matter – St. Paul, Rashad Turner spoke out. He interrupted Weingarten in an attempt to counter her misinformation around charters. He also questioned the unique level of admiration that was reserved for Weingarten, after other presenters like the state’s recent Superintendent of the Year, Robert Runcie of Broward County, didn’t receive the same.

Turner was quickly shouted down, with the task force shutting off the lights and having him removed from the hearing by police. This isn’t the first controversy around the NAACP being called out for their moratorium. As they were ratifying the resolution in Cincinatti, families rallying outside had the police called on them.

Misinformation and Confusion abound. 

The task force sent to Orlando and tasked with the duty of weighing presentations and testimony seemed woefully confused and misinformed on many points around how charter schools operate. Specifically, the false dichotomy of “private charters” vs “public schools” persisted throughout the majority of the hearing which did lead to at least a few of the presenters feeling the need to point out to the panel that charter schools are in fact public.

Beyond that, there seemed to be confusion around what lotteries for enrollment are and how they work, as well as misinformation around accountability standards for schools, specifically in Florida. In relation to the state of charters in Florida, the task force heard in plain terms that they are in fact held to high accountability standards and are performing at high levels.

It is cause for concern that this long after the moratorium was passed, NAACP representatives are still so ignorant about what charter schools are and how they work. And it has to be frustrating for school and district leaders to continually have to explain the same basic truths over and over to a bunch of folks who quite simply, refuse to do their homework.

For more information and several videos from the NAACP education hearing, check the #WakeUpNAACP hashtag on twitter, and follow us @CitizenEd.


You graduated from a private school. Now you oppose school choice. It’s not cute.

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Stop me if I’ve told you this story before.

A guy from seemingly meager beginnings gets a prized ticket into one of America’s most amazing private schools. He does well. So well that he translates his good fortune into a bachelor’s degree from a solid state college, and an advanced degree from an even better college. Then something strange happens. Somewhere in his development he decides that affording other young people (especially the poor) the same educational advantage that he benefited from is wrongheaded policy.

He wonders “what about all the kids that get left behind?”

Maybe that’s his survivor’s guilt kicking in.

Maybe it’s his university professors who pray to the gods of labor and imbue undergrads with one commandment: thou shalt have no school that is not unionized.

Maybe expressing love for all-things-public becomes his social penance, his class conscious way of achieving facile solidarity with those pitiable souls who still think Budweiser is beer.

Yes, you’ve heard this story before. It’s common.

For whatever reason, there are a lot of people who have been empowered by school choice, only to turn their backs on extending the same opportunities to others.

Today this story is about Morgan Showalter, a special education teacher and teachers’ union lobbyist in Baltimore who wrote a piece connecting school choice to the ancient evil known as “segregation.”

It jumped into my Twitter feed via Randy Weingarten from the American Federation of Teachers.

Take a look…

At the very moment it popped up I was speaking to a graduate class on public policy about charter schools and segregation. I was telling these grad students about the unintended consequences of integration (loss of black control over the education of black children), the popularity and success of charter schools with marginalized communities (black people support them in high numbers), and the culturally affirming environments ethnic communities have found through school choice.

Shortly after this class I read Mr. Showalter’s piece. It’s duplicity was astounding.

After framing school choice as a Donald Trump policy item, Showalter admits his privileged education was helpful.

He says…

I, too, know the possibilities that a privileged education can bring. When I received a scholarship to attend high school at the Interlochen Arts Academy, my life also shifted acutely. By attending that renowned boarding school, I left behind situational poverty, sickness, food stamps and welfare, as my family continued living in a two-room shack in the Northern Michigan woods, without electricity or running water.

That declaration is the last rational point he makes. Union double speak and spin takes over from there.

He continues….

School choice once promised an egalitarian mix of urban and suburban students of all races in one building, but in reality usually meant segregation, with black students confined to certain city schools and whites allowed a means of escape from them. Today school choice often means using public funds to support privatized charter schools of varying quality that usually are not unionized. Today choice means using public funds to provide vouchers to private schools that are allowed by law to discriminate.

Unpack all of that.

First, “public funds” is leftist code for “taxpayer money,” as in “my tax money shouldn’t go to people who don’t want to work, but want to buy lobster tails and steak with their food stamps.”

As in, “my tax money shouldn’t get welfare moms a section 8 voucher for a condo in the neighborhood I work hard to afford.”

Government cheese and public housing for them all. Because I pay taxes, I should say what choices those people have. And, they definitely should not have the choices I’ve enjoyed. Not on the “public” dime anyway.

If your progressive and reading this, you’re probably chaffing. You likely support poor people having a choice in food or housing, just not something far more important like where their kids go to school. Even if they can’t read, at least they won’t be hungry or homeless.

Because that makes sense.

Second, there is the artful way the word “privatized” is placed before “charter schools.” That’s a sly language trick. It’s meant to liken charter schools to private schools, which are bad, because….damn it, I’m not sure why private school graduates equate “private” with bad.

In fact, charter schools are now and have always been one of many variants of public schools (i.e. magnets, pilots, self-governing, alternative, etc.). Yet, like food stamps and Section 8, they use public funds to provide families with a wider variety of choices in essential services.

Third, there is Mr. Showalter’s fog about charter schools being of “varying quality.” It’s true, but only by half. The natural state of public schools overall is one of uneven quality, yet, charter schools, especially urban ones serving low-income students, produce better results.

Here’s what the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools say about the matter:

Sixteen academic studies have been published on charter school performance since 2010, four national studies and 12 regional studies from throughout the country. Fifteen of the 16 found that students in charter schools do better in school than their traditional school peers. One study found mixed results. The most recent of those studies, by the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes at Stanford University, found that charter schools do a better job teaching low income students, minority students, and students who are still learning English than traditional schools.

In some cities charter schools wipe the floor with district schools. For example, Boston students “ended up with over 200 days more learning than their district peers.” Sadly, success breeds contempt. Unions are spending millions to stop Massachusetts from increasing the number of high-performing charter schools by a mere twelve more.

Finally, there is the claim that ideologues like Weingarten and Showalter would always lead with if their blood flowed with truth serum: schools of choice most often are not unionized.

Let’s be straight, that is what motivates every single bit of political activity against choice and charters. Fewer students in unionized schools means fewer unionized teachers, which means less membership dues for unions.

Union leaders, especially those like Randi Weingarten who are paid $500k in total compensation, frown upon that sort of thing. It’s bad for business, and there is no better business than harvesting poor kids for their per pupil allotment of “public funds.”

I suspect that’s why her tweet, and Mr. Showalter’s article, ended up in my feed today.

Sadly their story ends without a single viable solution

Mr. Showalter attempts (but fails) to offer one as follows:

Instead of publicly funded inequitable plans of escape for a few, let us focus on researched-based solutions that have the ability to benefit the greatest numbers while transforming our communities. These include meeting the needs of the whole child, community schools and resources to combat trauma. Let us stop ignoring the links between socio-economic status and academic success and instead work to create real, sustainable opportunities for everyone to succeed.

I’ll let you unpack that focus-tested campaign language for yourself. I’ve had all the utter bullshit one man can stand in a day.

Labor loves you even if you’re crooked

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If ever there is a school reformer who does the perp walk it will be used as cause for shutting down all of reform. Charter school scandal? Shut ’em down. They are not regulated enough by our honorable elected officials, right?

Wealthy people pushing education initiatives? We must fight this oligarchy and restore democracy!

One exception: when the perp is a friend of labor.

I’m being dramatic, yes, but that’s what I get from Sean McMinn’s story in Roll Call about Chaka Fattah and the unions that continued to support him financially after he ran afoul of the law.

In June 2016, a federal jury in Philadelphia convicted Fattah of conspiracy, money laundering and of using campaign funds to pay off his son’s student loans, forcing his resignation from the House. In total, the congressman’s campaign received 15 donations from lobbyists after his indictment. He also received additional contributions in his name through the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, which he chaired.


The contributions that came Fattah’s way after his indictment totaled $29,000. Three organizations — the Communications Workers of America, the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers, and the American Federation of Teachers — each gave Fattah $5,000 in the months after his indictment. Nine others cut checks of $1,000 or more.

Asked why the teachers gave to Fattah, a spokeswoman for the union said the congressman was a “longtime supporter of Philadelphia public schools and our members.”

Now we know the rules. It’s ok to be a crook, as long as you support public employees.

Where in the World is Karran Harper Royal? Maryland and Across Louisiana

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Editor’s Note: This is the latest in an occasional series documenting where the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association sends Karran Harper Royal.

It’s been a while since we checked in on the union-funded travels of our old friend, Karran Harper Royal. If you’ll remember, last winter, Royal was busy flying across the country – from Los Angeles, to Boston, to Chicago – to share her distorted portrayal of charter schools in New Orleans, courtesy of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

As winter turned to spring, however, things seemed to die down for the Big Easy’s preeminent anti-charter school activist. Apparently, AFT stopped calling and had turned their attention elsewhere. While Royal maintained an unusually low profile for most of the summer – and the rest of us enjoyed a vacation from her incessant lies about education reform – it was only a matter of time before she jumped back into the fray. All she needed was the right opportunity and the Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA) has provided it.


ESSA, which was signed into law by President Obama in December, represents a significant shift away from the strict accountability measures of its predecessor, No Child Left Behind, by giving states much more flexibility in how they measure school performance and address failing schools. Now that states are preparing to adjust their policies to comply with the new law, the teachers unions – in particular, the National Education Association (NEA) – have launched a nationwide campaign to water down state accountability standards and promote community schools as an alternative to charters.

In Louisiana, NEA is attempting to shape public opinion through a series of community forums on ESSA that their state affiliate, Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE), is hosting in cities across the state. Moreover, the union has hired Karran Harper Royal to assist in their propaganda efforts to perhaps give them a veneer of grassroots authenticity.

Over the past two weeks, Royal has appeared at LAE’s ESSA forums in Shreveport, Lafayette, and Lake Charles, where she urged community members to reject charter schools and embrace the community schools model.  At the meeting in Lake Charles, for example, Royal told audience members that the proliferation of charters in New Orleans had been a disaster for the city’s children, whereas community schools promised to “catalyze the revitalization of not just the student, but of the whole community.”

From LAE's ESSA forum in Lafayette.

From LAE’s ESSA forum in Lafayette.

But Royal’s work on behalf of NEA isn’t limited to Louisiana. On Friday, she was in Rockville, MD to share her lies and misinformation about charter schools at a NEA training session for union leaders and educators from across the Northeast.

Where will Karran Harper Royal shill for the teachers unions next? Only time will tell, but rest assured that we’ll be following her exploits here on Citizen Ed!

An All-New Low For The Louisiana Federation of Teachers

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It has long been clear that the Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT) does not work in the best interests of students. After all, LFT has been on the wrong (and losing) side of several debates over past several years. They joined with Tea Party-aligned lawmakers in attempt to repeal Common Core. They have supported nearly every anti-charter school bill proposed in the legislature. And, LFT has repeatedly tried to weaken the state’s accountability system for schools and teachers.

But LFT’s current effort to scuttle funding for a charter school serving at-risk students represents an all-time low for the union.

Last week, LFT launched an online petition calling on Governor John Bel Edwards to veto House Bill 887, a proposal from Rep. Steve Carter (R-Baton Rouge), that would allow a Baton Rouge charter school, THRIVE Academy, to become an independent public school under the jurisdiction of the state legislature.

East Baton Rouge teacher Sarah Broome launched THRIVE Academy in 2011 after one of her young students was killed in a violent street fight. Broome recognized that the student’s chaotic home life put her on a path that ended in that unfortunate tragedy and wanted to create a school that could meet the needs of at-risk students both in and out of the classroom.

Therefore, Broome established THRIVE as a charter boarding school – the first of its kind in the state – where students live together during the week and are expected to participate in activities such as cooking, cleaning, laundry and budgeting. THRIVE also provides the 110 students it currently serves with individualized attention in small classes led by high-performing teachers.

By almost every measure, the school has been a success. Not only is THRIVE one of the highest-performing middle schools in East Baton Rouge, it’s the highest-performing charter school in the entire district.

Nevertheless, THRIVE has had to depend on the generosity of funders to cover the added costs that come with boarding students – an approach that has worked thus far, but leaves the school vulnerable to the whims of donors. To ensure the long-term financial stability of the school, Broome worked with Rep. Carter to craft House Bill 887 to make THRIVE a legislatively-authorized independent public school, much like the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA).

As a legislatively-authorized school, THRIVE would be able to enroll students who live outside East Baton Rouge Parish. It would also allow the Legislature to allocate additional funding to THRIVE – approximately $23,714 per child – to fully cover the costs of the program.

6th and 7th grade students at THRIVE enjoy a recent camping trip.

6th and 7th grade students at THRIVE enjoy a recent camping trip.

House Bill 887 received overwhelming support in both the House and Senate – in fact, Senators passed the bill unanimously – and is now awaiting the Governor’s signature. But the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, an organization which always claims it works in the best interests of kids, wants the Governor to veto the bill, which would deprive hundreds of our state’s most vulnerable children with a safe, nurturing environment to learn and grow.

That’s not only wrong, that’s despicable.

This post originally appeared at peterccook.com