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!

Where In The World Is Karran Harper Royal? Last Week: Chicago

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

New Orleans activist Karran Harper Royal is racking up the frequent flyer miles thanks to her friends at the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Over the past few months, Royal has criss-crossed the country to spread her myths and misinformation about the dangers of charter schools.

This past week, Royal was in Chicago to speak at Fighting the Flood: Disaster Capitalism and Black Reconstruction, a panel discussion on one of Royal’s favorite topics: disaster capitalism. At the event, Royal portrayed the takeover of schools after Hurricane Katrina as a grave injustice that has harmed the city’s black community and ominously warned audience members about the grave threat posed by charter schools in Chicago.

The event was hosted by the Grassroots Collaborative, an organizing network sponsored by none other than the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), one of AFT’s most militant locals. In fact, two days after Royal’s event, the Grassroots Collaborative honored CTU’s president, Karen Lewis, at an event marking the organization’s 15th anniversary.

Grassroots Collaborative honored CTU president Karen Lewis last week. Why? Because she's helping underwrite them!

Grassroots Collaborative honored CTU president Karen Lewis last week. Why? Because she’s helping underwrite them!

Where will AFT send Karran next? Only time will tell, but we’ll be keeping track of it here at Citizen Education!

Where In The World Is Karran Harper Royal? This Week: Boston

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

A few weeks ago, New Orleans activist Karran Harper Royal was out in sunny Los Angeles – courtesy of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) – to share her two cents about the evils of New Orleans charter schools at a UTLA protest against Eli Broad.

This week, AFT is sending Royal to colder climes – Boston – once again with the same aim of spreading misinformation about the progress seen in New Orleans’ charter schools. This morning, Royal will be the guest of honor at an event being hosted by the Massachusetts Education Justice Network (MEJN).

Royal has been invited to speak to MEJN members about how “NOLA schools were transformed almost overnight into an all-charter district” (of course, as I’ve shown elsewhere, schools weren’t turned into charters overnight). Not surprisingly, one of the main member organizations of MEJN is AFT Massachusetts, which is currently fighting against Governor Charlie Baker’s proposal to raise the charter school cap in Massachusetts.

It seems like every time AFT is engaged in a fight over charter schools, they bring Royal out to help make the case why kids should be denied the education they deserve. I guess that means Karran Harper Royal will be doing a lot of traveling on their behalf. But not to worry, we’ll be keeping tabs on her union-funded exploits here at Citizen Education!

AFT Doesn’t Want To Export New Orleans’ Reforms, But They’ll Export Its Critics

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It’s clear that the American Federation of Teachers doesn’t want New Orleans-style education reform to spread. After all, the teachers union has poured millions of dollars into the Bayou State to fight Louisiana’s reform efforts over the past twelve months. Plus, they’ve also waged a considerable public relations campaign aimed at discrediting the academic progress witnessed in the Crescent City over the past decade.

On the other hand, AFT hasn’t shied away from exporting critics of New Orleans’ reforms to the union’s other battlegrounds across the country. I was reminded of this while reading an article in The Progressive on a recent protest held by the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) at the opening of the Broad Museum in downtown L.A. UTLA is all in a huff about the recent revelation that the Broad Foundation is backing a plan to enroll half of the students in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) in charter schools by 2023.

A recent UTLA flyer attacking Eli Broad.

A recent UTLA flyer attacking Eli Broad. Charming, right?

While I expected a recounting of UTLA’s usual protest tactics in the article (i.e., UTLA President, Alex Caputo-Pearl, going on and on about “philanthrocapitalism” and the threat posed by “unregulated” charter schools), I was surprised to see a video of none other than New Orleans’ own Karran Harper Royal at the event screaming into a megaphone about the evils of Teach For America and the Recovery School District. Apparently, AFT saw an opportunity to advance two of their objectives – blocking charter expansion in Los Angeles and denying New Orleans’ academic progress – and decided to fly Royal out to “cry wolf” about charter schools.

However, outside of the echo chamber of reform critics and their union supporters, Royal’s admonitions about New Orleans’ charter schools ring hollow. As Tulane’s Doug Harris recently noted in an essay in Education Week, “There is not much debate that the New Orleans’ school reforms improved student outcomes. The evidence on that point is strong.” Likewise, UTLA’s warnings about the dangers of charter schools don’t seem to carry much weight with LAUSD parents either. As Catherine Suitor, chief development and communications officer for Alliance College Ready Public Schools, noted earlier this spring: “Every year, we have more applications than available seats.”

So if charter schools are benefitting low-income students in places like New Orleans, and parents in Los Angeles are flocking to enroll their children in charters, why is AFT fighting against them? Good question. Perhaps it’s something you can ask Karran when AFT sends her to protest in a city near you.