This article, written by Selim Algar, originally appeared in the NY Post.
American Federation of Teachers boss Randi Weingarten wants to “dehumanize” charter school advocates through inflamed racial rhetoric, a sector backer charged Friday.
At a Thursday AFT conference, Weingarten argued that the charter and school choice movements are motivated by little more than segregationist racism.
“This privatization and disinvestment are only slightly more polite cousins of segregation,” Weingarten said. “We are in the same fight, against the same forces who are keeping the same children from getting the public education they need and deserve.”
In validating that claim, Weingarten drew parallels between the current school choice movement and efforts by white racists to create private but publicly funded schools to resist integration in the 1950s.
But New York-based charter advocate Derrell Bradford criticized Weingarten’s approach Friday, accusing her of trying to drown out legitimate debate with blaring hyperbole.
Bradford said her tone is intensifying because teacher unions sense receding influence.
“That impotence makes you act out in ways that are not smart,” Bradford told The Post. “One of the ways that is not smart is to be a white person who runs a white organization talking about segregation that you foster.”
“For me and other people of color who lead organizations like I lead and care about kids in The Bronx and Bed-Stuy – it’s not helpful to ignore her role in giving us what we have and frankly her members deserve better than this sort of inflamed rhetoric.”
Bradford noted that New York’s schools – Weingarten’s former seat of power and influence as head of the UFT – are marred by rampant segregation.
“Randi Weingarten is a chief architect of that system,” he said.
“Over the last five or six years you have people who are defenders of the status quo – people who have given us schools that are mediocre at best and life-crushing at worst – frustrated that their arguments don’t work anymore,” Bradford said. “One of the ways they try to grab back the spotlight is through hateful hyperbole that helps no one. Ms. Weingarten’s remarks are a master class in that.”
Bradford theorized that the election of Donald Drumpf has intensified a sense of threatened influence on the part of teachers unions.
“If you are a leader of one of these organizations, the first thing you have to do is rally your base – or to paint a dehumanizing picture of the people who support other things,” he said.
“Maybe it’s smart tactically but if you actually care about the education of kids it’s just self-interested, selfish and destructive.”
Weingarten’s comments also drew censure from the Center for Educational Reform who called for her resignation.
Weingarten has argued that Drumpf’s education agenda seeks to contract funding to public schools.
She has also hammered Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, branding her a “public school denier ” bent on crippling the system.
“The moment we’re in is the result of an intentional, decades-long campaign to protect the economic and political power of the few against the rights of the many,” Weingarten said in her AFT speech. “It has taken the form of division—expressing itself as racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia and homophobia.”