June 6, 2020

Ms. Schneider, these little white lies about black (and white) education advocates must stop

Here we go again.

I’ve told you recently how people jump into the 990s of those of us who advocate alternative education looking for connections to funders they dislike (i.e. Walton, Gates, and Broad). It’s an undying strategy that litters the internet with career-killing garbage our opponents think will suffocate our credibility and neutralize our message.

Well, I have another example to share (No, I won’t link to it because I don’t link to trash).

A public school worker living and teaching in a suburb of New Orleans, Ms. Mercedes Schneider, recently blogged about my foundation’s website because she says a colleague asked her about us. Using her skills with Charity Navigator, she discovered we exist.

The fact that I have a foundation and that it is a platform for addressing the issues I saw while working in social services answers prayers and fills me with a sense of accomplishment. If you go to our site you’ll see our mission is simple: invest in women and change the world.

But, probably because of my education activism, specifically, my support of charter schools, Teach For America, and universal school choice, Ms. Scneider is suspicious:

One of the marks of market-based ed reform is the issue of mushrooming nonprofits. Want an instant platform for advancing school choice? Non-career, instant teachers? Test-driven classrooms? Drumming up grass-roots-styled support for an outside, billionaire-funded, corporate ed project?

Start a nonprofit, and create a vague-yet-stylish website to promote it.

Those few sentences are crowded with so many cliches I can’t keep pace.

I’ve never met Ms. Schneider. I saw her once with Jennifer Berkshire, a union communications consultant who once blogged as “Edushyster,” and Randi Weingarten from the American Federation of Teachers, at an event marking the 10th year post-Katrina in New Orleans.

Other than that, all I know is that she maintains a blog that appears to have been made in the early HTML era for the express purpose of selling her unreadable books.

I have written about her twice though.

Once I wrote about how basic white women with blogs attempt to ruin the careers of black men and use their privilege to drag us. Ms. Scneider was the centerpiece in that story.

Another time I wrote about her weird silence when a colleague of hers likened black people to animals and suggested we go back to Africa.

Now, here’s Ms. Scneider’s indictment of my foundation:

Both Wayfinder Foundation and Memphis Lift are shiny, new nonprofits bearing the marks of ed reform. For example, Wayfinder Foundation’s board of directors (no bio links available) includes reps from a charter school, businesses, ed reform nonprofit, Data Quality Campaign, and another ed-reform-promoting nonprofit, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) (for the Walton Foundation-UNCF connection, see this post)– which is promoting Memphis Lift along with other ed reform orgs (Stand for Children, Education Trust) in this “grasstops” ed-talking-points resource document.

For tax filings on fledgling nonprofits Wayfinder Foundation and Memphis Lift, we’ll have to wait. In the meantime, we can know that, yes, both Wayfinder Foundation and Memphis Lift are indeed newly-formed nonprofits in their own right, thus confirming one more piece in an ongoing, ed-reform-exposure effort.

Can I tell you how much next-level cluelessness you need as a Southern white woman to write off the United Negro College Fund as “another ed-reform-promoting nonprofit.” That shows me the extent to which those who worship at the church of public education play zero-sum politics, slash and burn, and lose their sense of history, culture, and social awareness.

Let’s do a quick comparison of credibility:

The UNCF has doubled the number of minorities attending college and graduated 450,000 black students thanks to their $4.8 Billion fundraising success.

Ms. Scheider has not.

Any questions?

So that you are not confused by Ms. Schneider, here is what my foundation actually does:

When we invest in women of color on the front lines of fighting poverty, we can achieve profound community change.

  • Wayfinder invests directly in courageous leaders whose efforts aren’t financially supported or recognized beyond their own communities.
  • Our two-generation approach directly improves women’s lives and ensures their children experience a better, safer, and more just world.

In 2018, Wayfinder Foundation invested in 25 women of color across the U.S. – all dynamic leaders – building local power to shape their communities.

Our grantees:

  • Are experts on identifying community solutions. Their lived experiences are the best indicators of what works and what doesn’t. They’re also already leaders – Wayfinder grants help them do more. Our grants reduce their financial burden (our grantees make immense personal sacrifices to improve their communities); create a supportive community (our retreats and listservs allow them to share challenges, strategies, and get the moral support they give so many others); and grow their reach and impact.
  • Aren’t working on behalf of women of color in poverty but are leading the efforts themselves. Our grants directly benefit local communities, rather than investing in nonprofits to do ‘outreach.’
  • Are building community power, platforms, and skills while driving immediate change. Wayfinder grantees share information with their communities about their rights, systemic injustices, and how to navigate and address them. Due to lack of attention, bias, and exploitation of their stories in the mainstream media, many grantees create innovative storytelling platforms to get their voices and experiences heard.
  • Face personal risk and retribution for their efforts to challenge the status quo. Harassment and threats of physical violence, loss of employment, loss of income…these are just a few challenges our grantees face when challenging systems of oppression.
  • Work at the intersections of systems and issues that impact their communities. Nonprofits usually tackle a single issue, policy, or approach. Yet that doesn’t reflect the reality of people’s lives. The horrific treatment of Jazmine Headley spotlighted the intersections of welfare, food justice, overpolicing, incarceration, and child custody – and the racism, classism, and misogyny underpinning it all.

I invite you (and Ms. Scheider) to donate to our work.

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