Sell Outs

(Guest Post by Brian Kisida)

It’s truly a sad situation when once respectable organizations become so intertwined with the corrupting influence of party politics and the ulterior motives of other interest groups that they abandon their core principles.  Last week Matt referenced the newly invigorated war against charter schools in New York undertaken by the NAACP.  Also last week in Milwaukee the ACLU filed yet another lawsuit against a school choice program.

On the surface, the NAACP’s ongoing opposition to school choice just seems bizarre.  The overwhelming majority of school choice programs in the U.S., whether it be in the form of urban charter schools or means-tested voucher programs like those found in Milwaukee and D.C., serve distinctly minority and disadvantaged populations by design.  If there’s a rational argument out there that can explain why the NAACP, according to its own principles, should stand in opposition to school choice, I haven’t heard it.  And I’ve done plenty of searching.

But the NAACP supported rally that was held down in Harlem last week does provide the necessary connect-able dots to at least consider their motives.  Who was there?  Well, New York City Council member Robert Jackson spoke out against charter schools, and he invoked the long hard plight of the NAACP’s battle against discrimination in the process:

“NAACP has stood for over 100 years to fight discrimination. And we stand united, right here on 125th Street and Lenox Avenue and Malcolm X Boulevard to say we will fight all people, all people, that want to discriminate against us or our children.”

Of course, he failed to mention that before he became a council member in 2001, he was a Director of Field Services for the New York State Public Employees Federation.  And, while it may be unfair for me to insinuate that his close ties to public employee unions motivate his opposition to school choice, it isn’t unfair to say that his claims are fundamentally false.  Charter schools are open to all students, regardless of residential location.  By definition, freely chosen charter schools are less discriminatory than residentially-assigned schools.  Unless, somehow, you think a randomly chosen lottery ball is capable of discriminating.

Also in attendance was United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.  He also played the equity card:

“The children from the charter school will get the science labs, and not the children from the public school…the children from the charter school will get the playground, and not the children from the public school.”

Of course, charter schools are public schools, and they are open to all students who apply.  Moreover, if Mulgrew really thinks that charter schools are so superior to “public” schools, then wouldn’t the proper thing to do–if one really cared about giving every child the best education possible–be to make every school a charter school?  Then they’d all get the science labs and new playgrounds, right?

I imagine this is how organizations like the NAACP will inevitably die.  They become so resistant to change and so corrupted by bad influences that eventually they become irrelevant.  The NAACP is squandering what little credibility it has left by opposing policies that are near and dear to the hearts of the people who should be their core constituents.  So it goes.

Up in Milwaukee, the ACLU is also doing its best to betray its own principles by fighting the expansion of Milwaukee’s Parental Choice Program (MPCP).  Like the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union is no friend of school choice.  Their own director, way back in 1994, agreed that school vouchers, if properly administered, were no more a violation of the First Amendment than were Pell Grants (which means they aren’t a violation at all).  But in the ensuing years, the ACLU has become one of the most vocal opponents of expanding individual liberty through school choice.  And it’s not exactly clear why.  At the very least, it’s worth noting that the word “liberty” doesn’t regularly appear in any of the ACLU’s public statements against school choice.

Last week, the ACLU filed a lawsuit claiming that the MPCP discriminates against children with disabilities and asked the Department of Justice to delay Governor Walker’s planned expansion of the program.  To make their case, they cite flawed statistics generated by the politically minded state Department of Public Instruction (DPI) that claim that nearly 20% of students in Milwaukee’s public schools have a disability, but only 1.6% of the students in the MPCP have the same condition.

Of course, the claim is misguided in multiple ways.  Independent research by Patrick Wolf from the University of Arkansas and John Witte from the University of Wisconsin does confirm an asymmetry with regard to disabled students, but not nearly as high as the one claimed by DPI and the ACLU.  In their analysis, they concluded that:

“Public schools have both strong incentives to classify students as requiring exceptional education, because they receive extra funding to teach such students and well-established protocols for doing so. Private schools have neither. A student with the same educational needs often will be classified as exceptional education in MPS but not so classified in the choice program.”

“Nine percent of choice parents said their child has a learning disability, compared to 18% of the parents of the carefully matched public school students in our sample. The proportion of students with learning disabilities in the choice program is about half that of MPS, but it is certainly not less than 1%, as the state Department of Public Instruction recently reported.”

In addition, the lawsuit brought by the ACLU completely ignores the funding disparity that exists between Milwaukee public schools and the voucher program.  Currently, students in Milwaukee’s public schools receive more than $15,000 in per-pupil funding, while students in the choice program receive $6,442.  If the ACLU were truly concerned about the liberties of disabled students and their families, wouldn’t it make the most sense to argue for an increase in the voucher amount for disabled students?  Wouldn’t that be the most liberty-maximizing course of action?

Like the NAACP, the ACLU has veered far from its own principles as an organization whose stated purpose is to “defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country.”  And, like the NAACP, it’s largely because they’ve sold out.  They’ve gone from being an organization founded on certain principles to being simply another political hack-unit heavily influenced by party politics and the agendas of other interest groups.  Unless they can find a way to change, they’ll continue to slide towards complete and total irrelevance.

36 Responses to Sell Outs

  1. Doug says:

    Why don’t we start with the assumption that the NAACP and the ACLU are correct and the school choice movement is wrong. NONE of the leading PISA-TIMMS OECD leading nations of the world use the voucher-charter-testing-teacher bashing approach of the USA.

    The more America follows the “reform” privatization model of education, the farther behind they will fall.

  2. matthewladner says:


    You are incorrect- parental choice is common are the world.

  3. Brian says:

    Hey Doug. Whether or not school choice is the cure for our educational shortcomings here in America should be largely irrelevant to the NAACP and the ACLU. The NAACP is (supposed to be) concerned with discrimination and inequity, and choice systems are inherently better on that front than residentially-assigned schools. The ACLU is supposed to be concerned with liberty, not PISA-TIMMS scores. The fact that you think they should be primarily concerned with achievement shows how far their missions have gotten off track.

    Do I think choice is good for improving achievement? Yes. Does that have anything to do with my post? Nope.

  4. Stuart Buck says:

    Doug — you’re regurgitating Diane Ravitch, at least in her current incarnation. But she’s lying. She previously was well aware that many other nations have school choice, more so than the U.S. See And some of those nations include the “top performers,” as I pointed out here.

  5. Daniel Earley says:

    “Why don’t we start with the assumption that the NAACP and the ACLU are correct and the school choice movement is wrong.”

    I think you ask a fair question, Doug, so let’s boil it down to its core, try it again and see if you’re still comfortable with it.

    “Why don’t we start with the assumption that choice is wrong.”

    If we begin with the assumption that liberty itself is fundamentally dependent upon choice — in many ways even synonymous — then you may begin to feel uneasy with this direct wording of your question. After all, to whatever degree choice is restricted, liberty is restricted, and vice versa.

    This makes questions like yours all the more important. As we honestly grapple with them, we have to remove institutions and let the principles and their consequences stand alone in our minds. It may help to consider that at our nation’s founding, the crucial words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident” simply meant that the points about to follow were the default assumptions from where we should start. Of course, “liberty” was one of the three natural rights singled out in that same sentence. So, indeed, we can ask again: how comfortable are we in assuming that “liberty to choose” is wrong?

  6. Doug says:

    Anything written that long ago is full of holes. I put no faith in the constitution whatsoever.

    Liberty and choice are of no consequence whatsoever. What is important is achievement, excellence, critical thinking, equality, gap closing, international competition, jobs and the future. Choice and liberty are NOT routes to the important gains necessary in education.

    Choice and liberty in education are distractions that hold America back. They are indulgences and preciousness that we can ill afford.

  7. Daniel Earley says:

    False dichotomies aside, thank you, Doug, for providing the quintessential progressive response to this outdated little question that some of us here would gladly die for. You have beautifully illustrated why some of us denounce national standards as well. Given that your candid perspective likely represents a great number of people on your side of the issue, I can only hope that our friends at Fordham are paying attention to that little shiver that just ran up their spines.

  8. Doug says:

    I stand 100% behind my position. Those who wish to privatize education are both evil and stupid. They will destroy the educational futures of millions of kids and set America back in the development of Human Capital.

  9. Doug says:

    National standards are required so that the more enlightened parts of the country can dominate the educational agenda and drag the red neck parts into the 20th centure if not the 21st.

    State testing in Mississippi is useless. Mississippi kids need to be compared to Massachusetts kids so that they can see 3/4 of the state is failing.

  10. Brian says:


    You should see if you can get a job as a public advocate for your positions on education. I’d love to see your honest views reflected in the debate. It’d be awesome if opponents of choice literally said:

    “I put no faith in the constitution whatsoever. ”

    “Liberty and choice are of no consequence whatsoever.”

    Thanks for wearing your utter disregard for the freedom of others on your sleeve!

  11. Doug says:

    Choice is not freedom. Choice is the destruction of public education and public education is the foundation of American democracy, more important than the family.

    It is critical if American is to advance that we all learn the same basic things in public school. It is critical that we weed out religion 100% from education.

    Public school is th best guarantee of freedom and equality.

    Privatization is the end of freedom, democracy and equality. That is why some people support vouchers. They are attempting to destroy American democracy.

  12. matthewladner says:


    So you are blindly defending a system in which the percentage of African American and Hispanic 12th graders scoring at the highest achievement level on NAEP math is statistically near zero as “the best guarantee of freedom and equality.” You may as well claim “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery and Ignorance is Strength” while you are at it.

    The same set of testing data shows that only 4 percent of Black students score at a Proficient level of achievement, and only 8 percent of Hispanic students. Proficient is defined as solid grade level achievement. You can look these numbers up for yourself:

    Now unless you want to buy into crackpot racist genetic theories about the distribution of intelligence, one must conclude that there is a great deal of room for improvement in a public education system that spends at a world-class level but educates our low-income students to something little better than a Third World level of academic achievement on average.

    If you’ll take some time to examine the data in the above link, and if you are not hopelessly blinded ideology, you may reach the same conclusion that an increasing number of both progressives and conservatives have embraced: far from serving as a guarantee of equality, America’s system of schooling is actually generating inequality.

    Intellectual luminaries of the left such as Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Ted Sizer didn’t embrace vouchers because they had been fooled by right wingers. They embraced parental choice as a mechanism to achieve their goal of creating a more equal and just society.

  13. Doug says:

    The system is not at fault

    Poverty is 110% responsible for the education results of American schools. Everybody knows that including the OECD. Canada does much better than the USA because, due to its social programs like universal single payer medicare, and similar programs, the gaps in income are much smaller and therefore the poorer Canadians do much better than poorer Americans.

    Read Jonathan Kozal on “Savage Inequalities”. America does spend enough on education but it is in all the wrong places. In Canada and most of Europe, the poorer a school is and the worse its scores, the more money and smaller classes it gets. We all know what ghetto schools are like in the USA but poorer countries than USA fund their poorer schools much better.

    Ontario Canada is adding full day JK-SK with wrap around child care at heavily subsidized rates. Quebec already does this. British Columbia ir right behind them. They look at AMERICAN studies like the Perry study and then actually go ahead and do it.

    America spends FAR TOO MUCH on affluent suburban schools and not nearly enough on urban schools.

    No other nation tolerates America’s polarized income distribution and with it follows education polarization.

    Every other developed nation makes their public education system work. American cannot make it work ON PURPOSE.

  14. Stuart Buck says:

    I think Doug is a reformer attempting to satirize a stupid and intolerant person.

  15. bkisida says:

    Click on his name, Stuart. If he’s into satire, then he’s made a career out of it.

  16. Doug says:

    The best research says:

    There is nothing of value and I really mean zero value in vouchers, charters, teacher bashing, teacher testing, merit pay, phonics only, NCLB, Race to the Trough, Mayoral control, ….. these are programs for losers, people who want to make a buck off the system, religious nuts, billionaire know nothings, and the like.

    The reforms that work:

    Keep reducing class size endlessly, ECE that begins at 2 years old, Finland style teacher training, paying teachers more, targetting all efforts money and resources to poorer schools, winding down and eventually ending testing, democratic control through school boards, national standards, curriculum based on equity, this kind of stuff.

    Where does all that money come from? It is cheaper to do it than not doing it. The productivity gains coupled with the reduced social expenditure could balance the budget.

  17. Daniel Earley says:

    Thank you again Doug for your transparency and forthrightness. Your candor is more than a gift that keeps on giving … but manna from heaven. I would strongly encourage you to enrich the discussion over at Fordham as well. Given their growing enthusiasm for national standards, I believe they would appreciate your support and find your insights quite illuminating. By all means, don’t hold back!

    • Doug says:

      You act as if these things are my OPINION. They are not. They are the results of all of the credible research since Coleman. Stanford says charters are worse than regular PS, the Milwaukee voucher after many years improved nothing, nada zilch.

      The dumbest thing that hold America back is this idiotic belief in “American exceptionalism” this blinds America to the achievements of leding education nations like Finland #1, who use no standardized tests, educate their teachers well, have a child poverty rate of 4% (America 20%) and so on.

      Americans can’t even seem to act on their own research, (Perry, Coleman) while other nations act on it.

      The education “reform movement” is wrong on every issue every day and it is not even close.

      NCLB, how is tht working for you? Dumb as a bag of hammers.

  18. Doug says:

    The Americans who make a huge contribution to education, both in the USA and internationally? Diane Ravitch, Linda Darling-Hammond, Larry Cuban.

    The dopes who know nothing whatsoever about education?

    Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Waltons, Bloomberg, Klein, Rhee, Gov Walker, Cory Brooker, Gov Christie, Chester Finn, Arne Duncan, DFER, Geoffrey Canada, KIPP, Teach for America, ……

  19. matthewladner says:


    Your abundance of confidence is exceeded only by your comical divorce from reality. Coleman for instance found no impact on class size on student achievement, a finding which has been replicated many times using both American and international data.

    Since however you think you know about the “best research” perhaps you could do us all a favor and provide links to one high quality random assignment studies that find a meaningful impact on student learning past grade 3.

    Mind you, I am looking for high quality research. Kozol rants, classroom observation studies, or talking points of teacher unions have approximately the same validity as a 4th graders essay scribbled in crayon on a Big Chief Tablet.

    You mentioned the Perry study, which was performed in the mid 1960s. Perhaps you could explain to us why the far more recent, far larger and far more relevant random assignment study of Head Start released by the Obama administration a year or so ago found no lasting academic benefit to the Head Start program:

    Click to access executive_summary_final.pdf

  20. Doug says:

    Do the research yourself, class size has a powerful impact at all grade levels.

  21. matthewladner says:

    That’s the thing Doug, I have done the research. For instance, here is the abstract from a meta-analysis of class size research performed by Stanford economist Eric Hanushek:

    While calls to reduce class size in school have considerable popular appeal, the
    related discussion of the scientific evidence has been limited and highly selective. The evidence about improvements in student achievement that can be attributed to smaller classes turns out to be meager and unconvincing. In the aggregate, pupil-teacher ratios have fallen dramatically for decades, but student performance has not improved.

    Explanations for these aggregate trends, including more poorly prepared students and the influence of special education, are insufficient to rationalize the overall patterns. International comparisons fail to show any significant improvements from having smaller pupil-teacher ratios. Detailed econometric evidence about the determinants of student performance confirms the general lack of any achievement results from smaller classes.

    Finally, widely cited experimental evidence actually offers little support for general reductions in class size. In sum, while policies to reduce class size may enjoy popular political appeal, such policies are very expensive and, according to the evidence, quite ineffective.

  22. Patrick says:

    Ye who speaks Kozol’s name first loses….

  23. Patrick says:

    Sorry Doug but the class size research is more settled science than climate change. The bulk of the research shows that nothing happens and its more than neo-cons there are tons of other academics – some 300 reports in all with more than 70 percent saying there is no statistical difference in results between schools which spend money on small class sizes and schools that spend the money on something else.

    Calling Hanushek a neo-con and dismissing his points only tells me you’re a troll.

  24. Brian says:


  25. Doug says:

    Hanushek was wrong and has been proven wrong. Try to keep up with the research. The only people who attempt to discredit class size research are neo-cons. What else would you expect.

  26. Doug says:

    Here is your study Matthew, one of many from around the world. Class size is critical from ECE-PhD.

    Click to access 2000303.pdf

  27. matthewladner says:


    The study you provided a link to is not a random assignment study, and in fact the findings contradict the Tennessee random assignment study, which found a small impact in the early elementary grades, and no effect thereafter.

  28. Doug says:

    Take off the ideological blinders and you will see that right wing “Reform” types in education are wrong about every single issue, every single day.

    In my system it would be illegal to attend private schools of any type. If you want to live in Canada or the USSA you would be required to attend a public school.

    This is the way to have the very best public schools. It is very important that we squeeze religion out of schools, public or private and it is equally important that all kids have equal opportunity in society which means nobody ought to be able to aquire any type of educational advantage.

    All universities need to be free and places awarded by merit, not money.

  29. Adolph Hitler says:

    At last…someone who agrees with my brillant education policies!

  30. Patrick says:

    Ah yes, we can have the best by limiting peoples choices and forcing them to accept a monopoly service provider.

    Its why communist countries today are well known for their automobiles…oh wait…

    And congrats on finding one of the 17 percent of studies on class size reduction that suggests there is a very SMALL relationship with class size and student achievement.

  31. Patrick says:

    Doug if you actually look through the results it shows that some of them aren’t even statistically significant and those that are significant are weak. In fact, there are enough non-statistically significant results that they can’t even conclude as they did that small class sizes improve student achievement.

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