Louisiana Teachers' Union Calls Black School Choice Group 'Pro-KKK'

On Thursday, in the shadow of the hurricane barreling down on the region, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, a large teachers' union, launched an attack on the state's chapter of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, a nonprofit organization working to improve black educational achievement through education reform and school choice.  On its official Twitter account, the teachers' union ludicrously alleged that BAEO supports a "pro KKK curriculum," and sent out the statement to various followers.

The presumed basis for the attack seems to be that one of the 119 private schools that accept vouchers in Louisiana uses a Bob Jones University Press textbook which, while stopping short of praising the Klan, casts its birth in a more positive light of "fighting the decline in morality."

While whitewashing the KKK is certainly abhorrent, one wonders if the LFT similarly fights the use of the historically debunked The People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn as a public school textbook throughout many states.  Many parents in the U.S. would find use of The People's History no less odious than the Bob Jones book, especially in light of the FBI's release of files on Zinn that cites an informant confirming Zinn's membership in the Communist Party.

Unlike a private school, which depends on parents' freely chosen decisions for funding, parents and taxpayers have no choice but to fund the use of Zinn's anti-American treatise as an instruction manual for their children.  BAEO does not have to endorse every parent's egregious curricular decisions in order to advocate for choice in education.

More important than a single textbook at a single school, the public school system that the LFT so zealously defends has an abysmal academic record generally, but fails even more spectacularly when it comes to serving the black students of Louisiana.  Nearly half of the public schools in Louisiana received a failing grade in the state's school performance assessment, which is based on attendance and student test scores, as well as on dropout and graduation rates.  A failing grade means that anywhere from 37 to upwards of 90 percent of the students in the school score "below basic," indicating that they are totally unprepared for graduation.

And black students are falling far behind even these low averages; while white, Asian, and Hispanic students all graduate at rates around 70 percent, the state's graduation rate for black students is 51 percent.  That means that only one in two black students in Louisiana gets out of the public system with the diploma that is the minimal basis for almost all decent jobs in our modern economy.

Appallingly, the average literacy score of adult black residents of Louisiana rests within the "Level One" range of the National Adult Literacy Survey, indicating the lowest level of literacy (of five), in comparison to the state's white adult average in the Level Three range.  The National Center of Education Statistics has tied this discrepancy to education disparities, built in the public school system LFT supports.

Kevin Chavous, a prominent black school reform activist and former board chairman of BAEO, had this to say about LFT's baseless attack:

BAEO and its allies fight every single day to give children from low-income families access to the best educational options possible. We fight to overcome the institutional bigotry that has sentenced thousands of black children across the country to a substandard education. It's a sad day when an organization like the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, which says it cares about kids, is among the organizations using degrading, race-baiting tactics to demean the very people who are doing their best to give kids hope.

School reform, especially the voucher programs BAEO supports, has had substantial success raising black student achievement.  LFT should look into the impact of the failed public system it supports on black children in Louisiana before it points the race-baiting finger at BAEO.