Last week, Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Florida to condemn (spuriously) Governor Ron DeSantis’s record on education. If Harris and her entourage truly cared about creating more educational opportunities for black students, they would have gone to Georgia to support Mesha Mainor, an embattled black state legislator.

Mainor is the Atlanta-based Democratic assemblywoman so excoriated by her own party for voting for a school-choice bill that she was driven to become a Republican. Mind you, Mainor is no conservative. A few months before her heresy, she sponsored a bill to establish an annual Kamala Harris Day in the Peach State. But once Mainor bucked the Democratic-union pravda on vouchers, the Left disowned her. Politico reported that Josh McLaurin—a white progressive from the suburbs—offered $1,000 to anyone willing to primary her, tweeting: “All I need is a name.” The Georgia Democratic Party called Mainor’s behavior “a stinging betrayal of her constituents.” 

Evidence suggests otherwise. African Americans tend to support school choice. In fact, black parents are as supportive of vouchers as black Americans are of the Black Lives Matter movement. According to a Harvard University poll, while just one in three African Americans say that their public schools place “far too little” emphasis on slavery and racism, a majority support charter schools, ESAs, and vouchers. Among white Democrats, vouchers were underwater by 19 percentage points, placing these progressives a whopping 70 points apart from black Americans on the issue. The Democratic Party is catering to the opinions of only some of its constituents on school choice—the white ones. 

Why might Harris’s concern about education policy be so selective? The Democratic Party, along with establishment civil rights groups, is simply too addicted to teachers’ unions’ electoral and financial support to represent mainstream black opinion faithfully. The party’s willingness to cater to white, rather than black, opinion on school choice is the sort of white privilege you won’t hear much about.

This dynamic dates back a few decades. In the early 2000s, the NAACP lobbied the Supreme Court to kill a school-voucher program that had been modeled on a Milwaukee policy spearheaded by Annette “Polly” Williams—a black Democrat who, like Mainor, represented a mostly black district with few good educational options for her constituents. In 2017, after receiving financial support from the nation’s largest teachers union (the NEA), the NAACP even voted to place a moratorium on charter schools, even though these schools are a refuge for many poor black kids stuck in low-performing, government-run schools. The NEA’s current president, Becky Pringle, is a black woman who stood arm-in-arm with the NAACP in support of its effort to squash charter schools.

This month, Pringle awarded the NAACP president her group’s top prize for educational leadership at its annual convention. She then proceeded to smear Florida as “ground zero for shameful, racist, homophobic, misogynistic, xenophobic rhetoric and dangerous actions.” Does Pringle talk to everyday African American parents? They unambiguously support vouchers, and most oppose making books available to young children that include any discussion of sex or gender identity issues. Yet without racial demagoguery, Pringle would be forced to talk about Florida’s historic expansion of school choice, an issue that helped DeSantis win black votes in the Sunshine State. 

It would be better for all Americans, but especially for black Americans, if Democratic officials and civil rights leaders emulated Mesha Mainor’s political courage. Democrats can either represent the views of most black families, or they can pursue their narrow political self-interest at the behest of teachers’ unions. They cannot do both.

Photo: Kobus Louw/iStock


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