Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus has some choice words for the civil rights crowd: “I know Kanye West said the George W. Bush didn’t like black people, but are civil rights groups really insinuating that Barack Obama doesn’t care about black children?” As it turns out, there is something more “galling” than teachers unions lobbying against school reforms that are good for kids. It’s civil rights groups complaining that Race to the Top dollars aren’t being funneled adequately to minority students, and that some of Obama’s other pushes, such as charter schools, are bad for minority neighborhoods. “At least the teachers unions are, presumably, acting in the economic self-interest of their members,” she says. In a letter released last week by the NAACP, the National Urban League, and five other big organizations, they alleged just these things. Obama was scheduled to speak to the Urban League a few days later and he pushed right back. But there’s more to Marcus’s observations than this tiff between the Oval Office and the Civil Rights lobby. By focusing on the lowest-performing schools—through i3, School Improvement Grants, Race to the Top, the ESEA blueprint, and the bully pulpit—one could argue that Obama is not only not ignoring minority students, but focusing on them. After all, they are disproportionately enrolled in the very schools that are the focus of these programs, policies, and dollars.
“Opinion: Civil rights groups on wrong side of education fight,” by Ruth Marcus, Washington Post, July 31, 2010