On New Year’s Eve The Nation published an analysis by Jennifer Berkshire called “The Democrats’ School Choice Problem.” Her piece is instructive because it illustrates a strategy commonly employed by those who regard themselves as warriors against craven privatizing shysters intent on expanding charter schools and/or voucher programs. This is how it works: Ignore context. Ignore math. Ignore inconvenient facts. And hustle together a specious I argument that plays to those who —perhaps responding to the Trumpian lurch to the right by Republican Party leaders in D.C. —believe that the only way to retain decency and moral order is by careening just as far to the left, which seems to me a surefire way to guarantee Trump a second term. (Not sure what these directions mean anyway. Since when is limiting public school choice, which primarily benefits low-income children of color, a value of left-wingers? Since when is it a violation of Democratic Party loyalty to want better schools for your kids?)
To unknowing readers (which apparently includes The Nation’s fact-checking department) Berkshire’s argument, as context and fact-free as it is, holds power. So let’s demystify the mystique and look at some of the ways that Berkshire makes her argument that the Democratic pro-choice coalition is “unraveling” and that no choice is the right choice.
First, to give credit where credit is due, Berkshire begins with the recent AFT/NEA “school choice forum” last month in Pittsburgh where seven candidates begged for union money and endorsement. She notes that the invitation-only audience was greeted by a Black mother affiliated with the Working Families Party (closely tied in agenda and funding with AFT/NEA) while 250 Black mothers (she says 100 but who’s counting) stood in a cold rain because they were locked out of the “public forum” for wanting quality schools for their children even if they can’t afford to live in Gloucester. (See here.) Why were they outside in the rain? Because the candidates, with the sole exception of Mike Bennett, refused to walk down the block and meet with them in a hotel room paid for by a GoFundMe campaign. Inside, audience members wore “F*%k Charter Schools” tee-shirts.
Madison’s taxpayer supported K – 12 school district has resisted school and parental choice.