Kamala Harris, Teachers and the NAACP CA Chapters Revolt

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Attempting to connect certain dots in the political/policy world can be a shaky proposition, but I think the recent stand by three California chapters of the NAACP civil rights group could signal complications for Sen. Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign strategy.

The perception of the Harris campaign is that beyond hoping to capture large favorite daughter support in California, the candidate is focused on controlling a big portion of the African-American vote and support from teachers and the many Americans who hold education in high esteem. A speed bump in the strategy was thrown down by the NAACP California chapters in San Diego, San Bernardino and Riverside over the issue of charter schools.

Harris is endearing herself to teachers and their unions by calling for federal money to boost teacher salaries an average of $13,000. The teachers unions, in turn, have been full of praise for Harris.

At the same time, teachers unions are pushing to cut back and hobble the charter school movement.

The battle over charter schools is particularly ripe in California where the state’s teachers unions are behind four bills to slow down and handicap the growth of charter schools.

Yet, in Harris’s home state, chapters of the civil rights organization that has pushed for the advancement of African Americans claim that charter schools are working for their community.

The position of the California chapters is at odds with the position of the national NAACP. The California groups are behind a resolution to reverse the national organization’s charter school opposition.

The resolution, as submitted by the San Diego chapter, reads in part, “the academic performance of the African American students must be the sole determinant of the school district decision making rather than the financial benefit that a school district derives from public school funding generated by African American students.”

Fighting words to the teachers unions, which claim that charter schools take needed resources from public schools.

The San Diego chapter notes that eight out of ten top performing predominately African American schools in the state are charter schools. The resolution argues that “public charter schools prioritize communities of need.” The entire resolution can be found within the article on the split by the NAACP chapters from the national group’s position as reported by LA School Report.

The strong argument on behalf of charter schools in the African American community puts Harris’s strategy in a bit of a bind.

Seeking solid African American support she would be expected to advocate for the education system that is working best in the community.  Yet, not wanting to undercut her embrace by the teachers unions who oppose charter schools, championing the NAACP chapter groups’ belief that charter schools work for African American kids becomes a political problem.

Since Harris has highlighted the education issue, she could find herself on a political tightrope in seeking support from groups she thought were natural constituencies that very well could be at cross purposes.

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