The NEA Follows the Lead of Other Charter School Haters

Constant Attacks on Industry Emboldens the National Education Association To Publicly Come Out Against Charters

By Connor Brown


At its annual meeting in Boston this past week, the National Education Association (NEA) drew a line in the sand and came out firmly opposed to charter schools - unless of course they are run the same as traditional schools.

Since the charter school revolution began in the early 1990s, the NEA has maintained a complicated relationship with charters, but never fully opposed the movement. Now the nation's largest teachers' union deemed them "a failed and damaging experiment,” specifically referring to charters run by for-profit or nonprofit organizations.

“Profiteers have been stripping away resources for almost two decades by cutting corners and treating children as commodities,” Dave Daly, a high school English teacher at Old Redford Academy, a charter school in Detroit, and a member of the NEA’s charter school task force, said in a statement. “This policy is the first step to arm our communities and our educational professionals with the tools and voice we all need to ensure a better future for our youth.”

(What Mr. Daily and the NEA failed to note is that he actually described just what the unions themselves do: inflate the cost of education and strip away resources from the classroom.)

The NEA’s narrative against charters should sound familiar to those who follow the charter movement in Ohio. For years, charter “advocates” like Fordham, have been bashing their competitors and rolling out studies that show charters are a failure. (Meanwhile, these “good” players continue to screen children to weed out kids they don’t want to enroll, ensuring their school doesn’t “fail.”)

These charter-school bashers – who are really bashing poor, urban school children when it comes down to the root causes of the disparity between what some consider “successful” charters and others a “failure” – have so tainted the waters against charters in general, that groups like the NEA can now adopt some of their language and still sound mainstream.

While the NEA only made known publicly their probably long-held private opinion of charters, the tone by which they could present their new line was sown by those who wave the flag of charter “reform.” See how NEA president Eskelsen Garcia, who led the opposition to the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary, described her unions new position on charters:

“Let me say this to all of you as clearly as I can, so that even if you disagree with me, you understand what is in my heart: I will not allow the National Education Association to be used by Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos,” she said. “I do not trust their motives. I do not believe their alternative facts. I see no reason to assume they will do what is best for our students and their families. There will be no photo-op.”

She continued her rant to raving applause: "We will not find common ground with an administration that is cruel and callous to our children, to their families. And I don’t just judge them by their words; I judge them by their actions.”

It’s no surprise that the NEA opposes charters or the Trump administration. What is surprising is the visceral tone in which they now conduct their “policy positions,” and its language that could have easily taken from a Fordham report, or other “reform” group. Those groups, who seek to consolidate and control the industry under their own umbrella, have allowed the charter industry to splinter, and NEA is taking advantage of their efforts. After all, Fordham and other right-leaning groups shouldn’t have all the fun bashing charters, the NEA now steps in to attack from the left.