NAACP chair Julian Bond went after the Bradley Foundation yesterday during NAACP’s annual convention in Milwaukee. Fair enough, Bradley is hardly a progressive force.
Yet their involvement in the Milwaukee voucher program is more complicated than Bond’s caricature. For starters, Bradley spread a lot of money to liberal and left-leaning groups in Milwaukee that also supported vouchers. In fact, looking at it in a content neutral way, what Bradley accomplished in Milwaukee provides a great roadmap for foundations looking to effect a policy change in some locale. They ran a soup-to-nuts operation supporting local activists and got a substantial policy change put in place and defended in the courts. Rather than bemoaning it, the left should try it with say, pre-k education, school facilities, teacher salaries, etc…
Moreover, Bond’s attack is pretty selective. Unless one believes that Bradley somehow duped the, mostly African-American, parents of the 14,000 students now using publicly funded vouchers in Milwaukee then it’s pretty insulting to characterize them as the victims of “ventriloquist dummies.” It’s also simply denying a tension in the Democratic coalition that the party needs to address. In the long run what those 14,000 parents want may not be great public policy (for instance, concerns about accountability notwithstanding, we can’t afford two public school systems), but their desire is hardly irrational or illegitimate and Democratic elites better start paying attention and putting forward serious solutions to the educational problems they’re facing.
MJS link via the patronizing Brink who also finds it inexplicable that a black leader might support vouchers on substance and not just be on the take.