Friday Reading List: Nonprofit Leaders Against the #MuslimBan (With a Notable Exception)

Over four hundred nonprofit leaders, including the heads of some of the country's largest charter school networks, have signed an open letter denouncing the White House's #MuslimBan:

As leaders who have spent our careers pioneering innovative solutions for many of our nation’s and the world’s most entrenched challenges, we write to express our unequivocal disagreement with your Executive Order issued on January 27, 2017, which banned individuals from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. We believe the order violates one of America’s most closely-held values to block entry to a targeted minority, whether comprised of temporary visitors, immigrants, or refugees. This is especially true for those who live on the edge of survival in war zones and refugee camps and have waited for years to call this great country their new home. Groups like ours exist to help lift up the poorest and most marginalized with innovative solutions. In our opinion, this ban will make our work to foster peace, sustainability, opportunity and inclusiveness much harder.

One name was notably absent from that letter, as Eliza Shapiro from Politco reports:

Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz, one of the nation’s most influential charter school leaders who has been a vocal supporter of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and defender of President Donald Trump, recently told a group of faculty members concerned about her alliances to the new administration that she is limited in how much she can advocate politically. A group of Success faculty members recently wrote Moskowitz a letter outlining their concerns about her ties to DeVos and Trump, and her silence on Trump policies that impact Success students, particularly the executive order on immigration and new deportation guidelines. Moskowitz responded in a lengthy letter this week, writing, “I … need to consider whether it is appropriate for me to use my position as the leader of a collection of public schools paid for with government funds to advocate politically.”

I'm about to eschew the mincing of words, so please forgive me in advance ... that last statement is the some of the most disingenuous bullshit I have ever read. Moskowitz has built her network of schools through the dint of relentless and controversial advocacy. She has infuriated her political opponents in the process, and the press has responded to her assertiveness with an equal and opposite fury that is sometimes disproportionate to her actual significance. If Moscowitz doesn't want to compromise her blossoming relationship with the Trump administration, she should just say that. Hundreds of other nonprofit leaders decided that speaking up for the the families and children they serve was more important than worrying about the consequences of their decisions to "advocate politically."

In completely unrelated news, a group of charter school teachers in Washington is trying to unionize. Rachel Cohen (no relation) of The American Prospect has the story:

This morning, teachers at Paul Public Charter School, one of the oldest charters in Washington, D.C., publicly announced their intent to unionize—a first for charter schoolteachers in the nation’s capital ... The Center for Education Reform estimates that 10 percent of charter schools are unionized nationally, up from seven percent in 2012. As more and more charter teachers have launched organizing efforts, the absence of charter unions in Washington, D.C., has been notable—particularly given the city’s high density of charter schools. There are 118 charters—run by 65 nonprofits—within D.C., educating 44 percent of the city’s public school students.

My hunch is that charter leaders nationally are underestimating the political and tactical consequences of their push to claim greater and greater "market share" in cities. This is one of them. Other charter schools, most notably the Green Dot network in Los Angeles, were designed to work with labor unions. It's harder to make that relationship work when the opening salvo is adversarial.

Tressie McMillan Cottom, writing in The Atlantic, looks at the fundamentals of the for-profit higher education industry:

From my experience on the ground working in for-profit colleges, and later when studying them, I realized there is a more satisfying—if damning—explanation for the rise of for-profit colleges in the Wall Street era of lower ed. Inequalities in how people work, exacerbated by social policies and legitimized by individualist notions of education as a consumer good, conspired to create the demand for a credential that would insure workers against bad jobs. And everyone from politicians to employers to researchers and those in traditional higher education benefitted when for-profit colleges became the solution to that demand. For-profit credentials became a political solution for “re-training” America’s workforce. It may not be explicit, but when politicians extol the virtues of short-term occupational training, they are promoting for-profit colleges’ speciality.

Cottom expounds on this analysis in her new book, Lower Ed ... Which is a great segue to the last article of the week, from Stephen J. Grant at Blavity:

The black experience is multifaceted and literature plays a vital role in documenting, navigating and understanding our history. Whether it's reading letters by Bayard Rustin in I Must Resist, or modern texts like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah, the written word is a great source for strength and guidance. Noir Reads, a new subscription book service launched on Monday, by Derick Brewer and Zellie Imani, will guarantee your bookshelves are filled with prominent black writers ... The low-cost subscription service priced at $35 per month or $100 for three months, delivers two to three fiction and nonfiction books each month right to your doorstep. The first shipment includes Angela Davis’ Freedom Is A Constant Struggle and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation.

Please do not hesitate to buy Noir Reads as a gift, specifically for me. Have a great weekend!