My latest NY Post column (8/29/2014):
On Saturday and again on Monday, TV personality and civil-rights activist The Rev. Al Sharpton spoke of the need to separate bad apples from the bag of good cops. But without skipping a beat, he bleated on about truncating due process for the police officers involved in the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
Among the honored guests at Sharpton’s Staten Island march and rally were American Federation of Teachers chief Randi Weingarten and United Federation of Teachers honcho Michael Mulgrew. The AFT and UFT are long-time sponsors of the Sharpton-led National Action Network.
The police unions are livid: A brother municipal union is abetting the trampling of due process for cops.
Given his relationship with the AFT/UFT, it’s not surprising that the opinionated Rev. Sharpton has been silent on teacher evaluations, incompetent and pervy teachers and teacher tenure.
Yet when Sharpton rails against the “school-to-prison pipeline,” I’m certain he’s well aware that that many schools in minority areas are saddled with U-rated (for “unsatisfactory”) and misbehaving teachers.
Sharpton sees a conspiracy in the “over-policing” of minority neighborhoods (despite the higher rates of crime against minority residents), yet sees no conspiracy in UFT efforts to thwart education reforms.
I’ve been unable to locate instances when the Rev. Al has spoken out against pervy teachers or led a march against persistently low-performing schools in minority communities. And in all my years as a charter-school supporter, I don’t recall him praising the work of successful charter networks.
Yes, in a debate last year with Campbell Brown over teacher misconduct, Sharpton conceded that the UFT “defended situations that I don’t agree” — but he went on to insist, “The teachers deserved to be defended.”
In Rev. Al’s mind, misbehaving and incompetent teachers deserve union protections and due process — but not police officers suspected of misconduct.
(That kind of unequal treatment infuriates police union leaders Pat Lynch and Ed Mullins. Mullins is so annoyed that he borrowed a tactic from Sharpton’s playbook, publicly urging the Democratic Party to not pick New York for its 2016 convention because he fears the city will no longer be safe.)
In the past 10 years, newspaper accounts have detailed that the only times Sharpton has delved into education issues is when his groups were paid.
In 2009, a $500,000 donation from Education Reform Now (which funneled the cash from Plainfield Asset Management, a hedge fund where former schools chancellor Harold Levy was a managing director) bought Sharpton’s cooperation with then-Schools Chancellor Joel Klein on the Educational Equality Project.
Critics charge that Sharpton manages to get paid by both sides in the education-reform battle.
He’s his own Switzerland, snowy peaks and all.
The UFT and AFT have been regular funders of NAN.
Last year, NAN collected over $350,000 in donations from the AFT. So long as the teachers’ union keeps paying the freight for Sharpton’s web of organizations going, he’ll carry their water on education issues.
The Rev’s penchant for calling out police misconduct and systemic police brutality stands in contrast to his blind eye towards teacher misconduct and the systemic educational of violence done to black students.
Could it be because the cops don’t pay?
Carrying a book and a piece of chalk shouldn’t exempt one from scrutiny and being held to higher standard of conduct.
And donations from teachers unions shouldn’t buy anyone’s silence in the face of the harm done to minority children by our city’s worst schools.
Michael Benjamin is a freelance columnist and former state legislator.