You’d be hard-pressed to traverse the United States and find a public school teacher who does not support the Black Lives Matter movement. Recently, many of those teachers have come under fire for classroom instruction that includes what’s colloquially being termed, “critical race theory” (CRT).
It’s easy to understand the sentiment: Educators feel a sense of duty and responsibility to discuss the effects of racism with youth during those students’ formative years in order to try to impact culture. They might even enthusiastically tell you they’re doing it because they care deeply about black lives. And those efforts are supported by teachers unions that are working to implement CRT nationwide.
Yet, as debate and controversy heat up over CRT being taught in schools, the entire issue seems moot. Because, no matter how much race-based history is added to curricula, teachers unions remain stalwart opponents of the one concrete policy initiative that would all but guarantee greater success for black students: school choice.
We have data from around the country demonstrating the advancement made by black students when their parents are able to send them to schools of their choice.
A scholarly study from 2014 assessed data gleaned from the Promise Academy in Harlem, New York City, and examined the impact of charter schools on “human capital, risky behaviors and health outcomes.” The researchers found that kids who were admitted scored “higher on academic achievement outcomes.”
The study also showed that female students who were admitted to the charter school were “less likely to be pregnant in their teens” and that male students were “less likely to be incarcerated.”
Promise Academy is part of the Harlem Children’s Zone, which has a stated purpose of “break[ing] the cycle of intergenerational poverty with comprehensive, on-the-ground programming that builds opportunities for children, families and communities.” This makes it difficult to fathom opposition from those who say they are the ones who want children to succeed.
Other data show that students who attend charter schools graduate from college at a rate “three to five times” the national average.
In 2019, New York’s Success Academy Charter Schools dominated state exams, with 99 percent of their test takers passing math and 90 percent passing English/language arts.
For comparison, less than half of the students in New York City’s public schools passed their comparable math or English exams. As for the demographic makeup of New York City’s charter school students: They are predominantly black.
Despite the existence of these success stories across the country, teachers unions still lobby against the expansion of alternatives to the public school system.
Why? The answer is simple.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten recently wrote on Twitter: “The job of a union is to protect its members’ rights, and that’s exactly what [American Federation of Teachers] will always do.”
Teachers unions represent dues-paying members—they have no vested interest in lobbying for the interests of students. And no amount of Black Lives Matter posters or classroom discussions of America’s past sins will change that basic reality.
We know that school choice improves the lives of black students. But actions speak louder than words. And by shutting off one of the main conduits for future academic and economic success for black students, teachers unions have made it abundantly clear that black lives don’t really matter to them.
(This article was published in Newsweek: https://www.newsweek.com/black-lives-dont-matter-teachers-unions-opinion-1611601)