- The Washington Times - Friday, November 3, 2000

Parents and other voters use a variety of ways to help make what they hope is an educated decision come Election Day. Some of the most popular ways are candidates' forums and coffee klatches. Voter guides, those published by such organizations as the League of Women Voters and those published by local newspapers, are helpful, too. Campaign ads, of course, have become increasingly important.

The media, though, are vital. They, for instance, uncovered the unsavory personal loan Terry Lierman, a Democratic candidate for the 8th Congressional District in Maryland, made to Rep. Jim Moran, a Democrat up for re-election in Northern Virginia. The media also reported the fact that a candidate running for the presidency of the D.C. School Board, the Rev. Robert Childs, would support vouchers funded with private dollars. That's pretty important stuff.

I think the media are obligated, though, to go a step further and report the political agendas of organizations that call themselves nonpartisan. These organizations carry a lot of weight, often backing candidates without formally endorsing them. Often these organizations mislead the public, just as politicians do.

Consider, for discussion's sake, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the National PTA.

The NAACP is the largest civil rights organization in the nation. Two of its most significant court battles involved public education. In 1935 the NAACP successfully litigated the case that forced the University of Maryland to enroll its first black student. In 1954 the NAACP's persuasive legal arguments led the U.S. Supreme Court to declare America's separate but unequal public school systems unconstitutional.

This election cycle the NAACP does black Americans an injustice. It does not think education is as important as other issues.

I am certain many of you reading this column right now are, or have been, members of the NAACP. At the very least I know you pay attention when the NAACP cries "injustice!" But do you know the NAACP's top three issues for the 2000 elections? Supreme Court nominees, health care and racial profiling.

Now you know better, don't you? You know quality-of-life issues, such as education, crime and taxes, are on the minds of Americans everywhere. Right?

Well the NAACP wants you to think otherwise. As far as the NAACP is concerned reparations (for slavery, in case you hadn't heard) are more important than education, which ranks fifth on its list.

The NAACP's top 10 list says absolutely nothing about student achievement, and it does not mention teachers or technology or even textbooks. It backs funding for black colleges but what if your child wants to go to a "white" college, or merely "a" college?

That education is No. 5 on the NAACP's top 10 list is contrary to the Black Agenda 2000 the NAACP helped craft. That agenda makes education as the No. 1 priority as well it should be.

The National PTA, meanwhile, is equally disappointing. Parents seek the National PTA's official position on everything from selling pizzas, to raising funds, to school buses, as one Montgomery County mom did recently. This organization's position on some issues will surprise even its members.

The National PTA wants to restrict the funding and growth of charter schools, and it opposes vouchers. It opposes tuition tax credits and educational savings accounts, too and it approves of giving bureaucrats in Washington a say in what's going on in your neighborhood day-care center.

The PTA says it supports charter schools if those schools "do not divert money from public schools" and if charter schools do not "have a negative impact on public schools." But "negative" means different things to different politicians. To a PTA official running for office in Washington, it may mean the popularity of the charter school movement needs to be reined-in. To his opponent, who helped craft the criteria for D.C. charter schools, it may be an incentive to help improve traditional public schools.

On the other hand, to this public school parent who supports charter schools, vouchers, tax credits and any other means necessary to improve the academic lot of children, especially black children "negative" means do not vote for Larry Gray, the legislative chairman of the D.C. Congress of PTAs, who is running for the presidency of the D.C. Board of Education.

Ironically, here we have the NAACP in the midst of the largest voter registration drive in U.S. history, and find that it undermines the importance of education. Here we have America smack in the midst of a pivotal educational reform movement, with key states, such as voter-rich California, voting on voucher initiatives, and the District of Columbia wrestling over the fundamentals of school governance, and the National PTA urges you to vote for the status quo.

Something is terribly wrong with those priorities and principles.

E-mail: simmon@twtmail.com

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