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By Amber Randall

Black school choice advocates and education reformers criticized a teachers union president who compared school choice to segregation during a conference call Monday.

The conference call, led by the American Federation for Children, featured four prominent education leaders — Dr. Howard Fuller, Derrell Bradford, Darrell Allison, and Kevin P. Chavous — who had harsh words for American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten’s claim that school choice policies have a history of racism and segregation.

Chavous, a board member on AFC, called Weingarten out for her “hypocrisy” and said her comments were an insult to minority children who are stuck in bad schools.

“Let’s be clear: the hypocrisy coming out of the mouth of Randi Weingarten reeks. Back in her comments, she has in effect spat in the face of every African American and Hispanic child who’s trapped in the school that doesn’t serve them well, and spat in the face of their parents,” Chavous said during the call. “In addition …as Dr. Fuller said, history didn’t just start last week, or twenty years ago. The private school reality for most American children of color started because black folks weren’t getting a fair shake with traditional public schools”

Weingarten claimed during a speech last week that the school choice was used as a way to keep segregation in place by the South.

“Make no mistake: This use of privatization, coupled with disinvestment, are only slightly more polite cousins of segregation,” Weingarten said.

Dr. Howard Fuller, a professor at Marquette University, said that the debate over school choice boiled down to power and control.

“The fact of the matter is Randi is doing what she can do so that the people that she represents can maintain control and power over a system. And the threat of vouchers and charter schools and all of this, let’s be real, what it’s about is reducing the number of people who are under her control,” Fuller said. “… And I would argue that for those of us who believe that low-income and working class parents ought to have choice, we’re trying to as best we can represent the interest of those families because I believe that having choice empowers them.”

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