By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The New York Times cites a pro-charter school group without disclosing its ties

The New York Times, in a story on President-elect Joe Biden’s education priorities, quotes Keri Rodrigues, president of the National Parents Union, as saying she’s “worried that the Biden administration might stack the government with people who are ‘interested in fortifying the status quo that has been failing so many of our kids.’” Rodrigues continues:

This is the biggest table right now, and I don’t see parent groups, family groups, community groups present…. It seems we’re back to the same old, “We’re going to do things to you, not with you.”

So what is the National Parents Union? All the Times has to say is that it “represents low-income parents and parents of color.” But here’s what UMass Boston Professor Maurice Cunningham reported when the organization was getting off the ground in April 2019:

Keri Rodrigues of Massachusetts Parents United, the highly subsidized-by-the-Walton-family front in the education privatization business, is pitching a new organization called the National Parents Union. It’s got elements that should appeal to the WalMart heirs — hidden money, infiltration of the Democratic Party, pro-charters, privatization of public goods, and virulently anti-union.

In 2016 Rodrigues was the head of a group called Families for Excellent Schools, which pushed a ballot question that would have greatly expanded the number of charter schools in the state, thus inflicting further damage on the vast majority of kids who’d be left behind. Fortunately, that measure was defeated decisively.

The Times needs to do a better job of vetting — and describing — its sources. (Disclosure: My wife is teaches in a public school and is a proud union member.)

Correction: This item originally misidentified the organization behind the 2016 ballot question.

Comments are open. Please include your full name, first and last, and speak with a civil tongue.

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  1. Steve Ross

    I’m disgusted at lack of disclosure. NYT, like many media organizations, is entangled on many levels with folks that want to influence coverage. WGBH, for instance, benefits from Koch money. My magazine doesn’t do any of the new entanglements (ads looking like editorial, pay-to-play, etc) but we still take advertising!

    I’m in favor of WELL REGULATED charter schools because (as we discussed in 2016) different kids may need different learning environments. My three daughters attended a well-regarded suburban school in New Jersey, for instance. The super-creative one (who had scored above the average on SAT for all college-bound seniors when she was in the 7th grade) ended up (at our huge expense) in a private school — the Leonia NJ school system was destroying her creative juices. She’s gone on to a great career. My youngest short-circuited her high school career, graduating in three years and is now a public high school teacher in VA. My middlest was ignored by faculty — she aced every test but hated time-wasting drill-and-practice homework, and faculty (with only 18 kids in average classroom!) refused to enrich her assignments… then she became the only Merit Scholar semifinalist in her high school class. She’s been honored by WHO and is now helping the effort to figure out how to get folks comfortable with COVID vaccines.

    I had a GREAT public school education in Boston, long before charter schools existed. I believe in public schools. But today, unlike your wife, I think the evidence is obvious — competition from GOOD charter schools has improved education in all schools.

  2. Deborah Nam-Krane

    That seems like a rookie mistake, both on the part of reporter and the editor. The picture of the reporter looks young, so maybe that’s part of it, but I have no idea who edited the piece. Regardless, the Times should do better, but maybe my expectations of The Grey Lady are outdated.

    I think it’s also possible that the oversight reflects the issue of charters is settled for a lot of people. Many of the people I talk to think they’re a good thing, or at least have the potential to be. (I’m baffled, but that’s besides the point.) Unfortunately, I think it goes with the stereotypes of teacher unions having too much power and being more concerned about their job requirements than the students’ welfare, which disregards the possibility that there might be a significant overlap between the two.

  3. Aaron Read

    Well, as always, consider the source. But it would seem this isn’t the first time Erica Green has soft-pedaled about DeVos and Trump’s overall management of USDOE.

  4. aaronread1

    Always consider the source, but it would appear this isn’t the first time that NYT reporter has soft-pedaled on this topic, Dan.

    • Dan Kennedy

      The liberal media in general absolutely despise teachers unions and love charter schools.

  5. Is it the liberal media or the lazy media? The Koch, Walton, and other astroturf funders just have to install a fetching sign over a store front operation and the press goes no further. Sad, bigly sad, as someone once said.

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