NEA Continues Support for Charter Schools
by Jim Horn
Every year American public school educators send approximately a billion and a half dollars to the National Education Association and over half that amount to the American Federation of Teachers. The NEA’s latest policy statement on charter schools should make every teacher wonder why she is sending in those hundreds of hard-earned dollars every year to help NEA and AFT misleaders to put a stake in the heart of public schools.
The corporate lawyers who write NEA policy have been dissembling, dodging, and weaving for a long time on the subject of charter schools. With this new policy statement, it is clear that that has not changed.
What has changed is the mass of qualifiers that NEA has added, ostensibly to earn the organization’s continued blessing for charter schools. If, however, the corporate governing bodies do not abide by NEA’s list of wishes, then that could trigger an NEA response that must have the charter industry quaking at the thought:
Unless both the basic safeguards and process detailed above are met, no charter school should be authorized and NEA will support state and local moratoriums on further charter authorizations in the school district.
Now mind you, this does not mean that NEA headquarters will do anything or even threaten anything on its on if the charter industry ignores NEA’s latest dissembling. What NEA will do, however, is to not stand in the way of any NEA affiliate that wants to tie its membership onto the tracks for the billionaires’ corporate charter locomotive to flatten. Where is the NEA and AFT leadership? They are, of course, at the corporate education table, even if they have to sit underneath it and beg for bones to be thrown to educators.
Based on past experience, we may expect the multi-billion dollar charter industry to summarily ignore NEA’s pathetic statement on charters, which is delivered without demand, without promised repercussions, and with zero fanfare. NEA’s new statement signals a policy that continues down the dead-end Democratic Party’s Third Way, which has surely earned the label of Third Rail by now—following the 2016 election. NEA’s policy on charter, in fact, is one that would never cause a Clinton to cluck.
And what happens if, by some miracle, NEA’s entire fanciful list of conditions is met, thus making meaningless calls for moratoriums unnecessary and any further pretense of charter outrage irrelevant? Not much.
Now the NEA statement supports “prohibitions against for-profit [charter] operation.” It is reasonable to ask, then, if for-profit charters are prohibited, will the billions of public dollars that are now going to the charter industry stop flowing into privatizers’ pockets.
Not at all. In fact, the majority of charters have always been of the “non-profit” variety, with only 13 percent of the nation’s 7,500 charters run by for-profit companies. Insisting that all charters become “non-profit” will only guarantee that that state and local education dollars will continue to fill the coffers of the charter industry, which thrives by claiming “non-profit” status for their segregated cultural sterilization schools based on the KIPP Model.
It matters not to a school system that must fire its librarians to make payroll if, in fact, monies now being diverted to charters go to a charter operator’s bank account that is designated as “non-profit.” In fact, the “non-profit” status guarantees many tax advantages for the big donors and operators who view the paternalistic “no excuses” charters as the urban education final solution.
Which brings us to the greatest weakness of the NEA policy on charter schools. If all the items of NEA’s wish list were realized, and that is a huge “if,” the charter industry’s corporate colonization of urban schools by the 6,500 non-profit charters now in operation would continue unabated. If all of NEA’s fanciful wishes were met, hundreds thousands of children and thousands of their missionary teachers would continue to suffer daily indignities and ongoing dehumanization from white corporate school managers who pretend that callous brutality is justified as a means to an end that always boils down to performance on standardized tests and behavioral grade cards.
We have to wonder when the remaining members of AFT and NEA will join those hundreds of thousands of educators who have already stopped their enabling of NEA’s corporate education habit.