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MEDIA WATCH: NPR criticized for bias against SOS rally and march

Class Size Matters (Leonie Haimson) has issued a challenge to NPR, criticizing the NPR coverage of the SOS rally and march as biased, and the choice of two conservative "school reform" groups to comment on the SOS activities as equally slanted. The material sent to NPR follows below:

SOS leaders and the National Park Service estimated the crowd at the rally and march on July 30 at between 5,000 and 8,000. NPR low-balled the number as less than 3,000, then quoted conservative "school reform" talking heads as experts. Substance photo by Susan Zupan.In addition to sending the following out to friends, they posted it on the PAA (Parents Across America) blog here: http://parentsacrossamerica.org/2011/08/an-open-letter-to-npr-about-their-coverage-of-the-sos-march/

This letter was sent today to Claudio Sanchez, the reporter and Edward Schumacher Matos, the NPR ombudsperson. We will let you know if we receive a response. If you’d like to send your own message, their emails are: csanchez@npr.org and eschumachermatos@npr.org

August 11, 2011

Dear Mr. Sanchez and Mr. Schumacher-Matos;

I was very disappointed in your coverage of the SOS march. You severely underestimated of the size of t he rally, reporting that there were only 2,000 to 3,000 teachers there, whereas most others, including the National Park Service, estimated the crowd at 5,000- 8,000. You failed to mention that there were hundreds if not thousands of parents there as well – including at least two prominent speakers who represented Parents Across America – Karran Harper Royal from New Orleans and Rita Solnet from Florida.

But what most needs correction is how you gave the entire second half of your story to spokespersons from organizations that vehemently oppose the goals of the teachers and parents who participated – Democrats for Education Reform and the Fordham Institute – while making it seem as though this presentation was balanced, by calling one organization (DFER) “liberal” and one “conservative” (Fordham).

To describe Democrats for Education Reform as a “liberal” organization is highly inaccurate; it is funded exclusively by hedge-fund operators and other wealthy individuals whose primary purpose is to privatize public education through charter school expansion and to weaken the teacher unions by eliminating all seniority protections from the profession.

One of its principal founders, Whitney Tilson, recently admitted that the only reason they put “Democrats” in their name in the first place and focused on giving money to Democratic candidates was that the GOP had already adopted most of their positions. The following is an excerpt from a film made by Tilson called “A Right Denied”:

“The real problem, politically, was not the Republican party, it was the Democratic party. So it dawned on us, over the course of six months or a year, that it had to be an inside job. The main o bstacle to education reform was moving the Democratic party, and it had to be Democrats who did it, it had to be an inside job. So that was the thesis behind the organization. And the name – and the name was critical – we get a lot of flack for the name. You know, “Why are you Democrats for education reform? That’s very exclusionary. I mean, certainly there are Republicans in favor of education reform.” And we said, “We agree.” In fact, our natural allies, in many cases, are Republicans on this crusade, but the problem is not Republicans. We don’t need to convert the Republican party to our point of view…”

In fact, DFER’s positions are in total agreement in every respect with the Fordham Institute, which you accurately call “conservative”– with the possible exception of publicly funded vouchers.

Many teachers and parents have expressed deep dissatisfaction with the coverage of NPR on education issues, and have given up hope for any improvement. Some parents have even pointed to the funding NPR receives from the Gates and Broad Foundations, two of the most powerful funders of the corporate reform movement.

But I have not given up hope that your coverage in the future might more fairly represent the views of real stakeholders– parents and teachers who, from the ground up, realize how the current wave of education policies, focused on high-stakes testing, privatization, and undermining the professionalism of the teaching force, is damaging our children’s education with potentially negative effects for years to come.

Please let me know if you intend to correct these errors, and provide a more honest and balanced view of the education debate in the future.

Thanks, Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters and Parents Across America



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