Friday, April 30, 2010

Teachers union vs. black school-choice candidate

A nice article about Anthony Williams, who's running for Gov. of PA (see:

A May 18 Pennsylvania Democratic primary for governor could change the national debate on parental school choice. A singularly independent black candidate, state Sen. Anthony Williams, is focusing on giving parents the right to choose among charter schools, vouchers for private schools and those public schools that actually work for all children.

"Many inner city schools," he says, "remain separate and not equal for African-American and other disadvantaged children." He wants "the dollars to follow the child."

Williams is strongly opposed by the teachers union, the Pennsylvania State Education Association, as are nearly all school-choice candidates around the country, few of whom are black Democrats. Any of the pro-choice politicians would lose union financial support.

"Many African-American elected leaders," Williams told me, "are not in step with people in their communities." In Harlem, for example, as I told him, large numbers of black parents are competing for places in charter schools there that markedly outperform the local public schools. In addition to the teachers union, a fierce leading opponent of the charter schools there is prominent black New York State Sen. Bill Perkins. He may lose his seat.

What makes Anthony Williams even more singular is his unusually active and substantive record for the 8th Senatorial District, which spans small towns, suburban enclaves and communities in South, West and South-West Philadelphia. The Philadelphia AFL-CIO supports Williams' re-election to the Senate but is silent on his gubernatorial candidacy. In that race, organized labor's primary allegiance is to the teachers union rather than the students.

I have been covering politics for more than 60 years – first in Massachusetts, then in New York and around the country on my basic beats, education and the health of the Constitution. I have rarely come across a legislator with such wide-ranging accomplishments in the Pennsylvania state Senate (since 1998) and in neighborhoods throughout the district.


Teachers union vs. black school-choice candidate

Posted: April 28, 2010
Nat Hentoff

 Subscribe in a reader