Three Thoughts About Rishawn Biddle’s AFT Takedown

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I’m all for journalists and others reporting out what groups of seemingly-independent education and civil rights groups are getting funded by the AFT, as RiShawn Biddle (pictured above) does in this recent Dropout Nation post (AFT Front Groups Against Minority Kids).

I’ve done the same myself, and think that if journalists are going to cover funding sources of reform groups as obsessively as they seem to do then they should publish funding sources that go to groups critical of reform efforts. Ditto for campaign funding, salaries, and everything else. 

In this case, Biddle is writing about Journey for Justice Alliance, a pop-up group of AFT-allied groups weighing in the current (seemingly doomed) effort to revamp ESEA (aka No Child Left Behind). 

However, I think that Biddle overstates the case that these groups are all 100 percent bought and paid for by taking amounts of money that are in some cases very small. This is a simplistic argument made by reform critics all the time that doesn’t make any more sense going the other direction.

I also think that at some point, for credibility, Biddle needs to show some version of his own tax returns so that we can see where he gets his funding (with dollar amounts). 

There’s no specific information on his “About” page: “Biddle is consultant to the Black Alliance for Educational Options, the leading school reform organization for African-American families. He is also an advisory board member of the Connecticut Parents Union, a group devoted to building Parent Power in education and giving families their rightful places as lead decision-makers and reformers in schools.”

Asked how he pays the rent in a recent interview, Biddle answered: “Through my columns for Rare and the American Spectator, as well as through my communications and policy consulting work, which is separate from Dropout Nation. Past and present clients include the National Council on Teacher Quality and Bellwether Education Partners.” But again, no specific dollar amounts like the ones he often features in his takedowns

Last but not least, @theJLV points out correctly that the Education Trust isn’t a civil rights group in the traditional sense.  It’s a spinoff of the Children’s Defense Fund, and much of its work supports a civil rights agenda, but I wouldn’t put it in the same category as the NAACP or NCLR.

Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.