Senate leader Phil Berger attacks education leaders over their support for Black Lives Matter at School

By: - September 15, 2020 6:00 am
Sen. Phil Berger

Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), continued his attacks on state educators Monday, this time targeting the N.C. Association of Educators’ (NCAE) leadership for its support of Black Lives Matter at School, a national coalition of teachers that promotes racial justice in education.

Berger’s criticism of the “far-left” NCAE came days after its president, Tamika Kelly Walker, posted a tweet urging educators to sign a petition pledging to participate in the coalition’s “Black Lives Matter at School’s Year of Purpose” by initiating social justice and political activities in classrooms.

He contends that support for the coalition creates a “credibility crisis” for NCAE because the coalition’s motto is written by Assata Shakur, the former Black Liberation Army member convicted of being an accomplice in the 1973 murder of a New Jersey State Trooper.

Tamika Walker Kelly

Shakur escaped prison and now lives in Cuba where she was granted political asylum in the early 1980s.

“The organization’s motto, written by the cop-killer terrorist, comes from a larger work in which [Assata] Shakur also calls cops “pigs” and says murdered officers died “in the so-called line of duty,” Berger said on his website, Senator Berger Press Shop. “Those are the facts.”

Sen. Deanna Ballard, a Republican from Watauga County, jumped into the fray.

“It’s despicable that the far-left NCAE would encourage North Carolina teachers to pledge their support for a movement that openly embraces a cop-killing terrorist on the FBI’s most wanted list,” Ballard said. “Police officers in Los Angeles were just targeted for assassination, and this movement honors a cop-killer. The NCAE should withdraw its support, apologize to parents and teachers, and renounce violent attacks on police.”

Ballard is referring to the shooting of two deputies in Los Angeles over the weekend. An unknown gunman critically wounded the deputies in an ambush-style attack while they sat in a patrol car.

Like Ballard, Berger also called on the NCAE to withdraw its support from the coalition.

Here’s what he tweeted:

“The movement endorsed by @NCAE openly embraces cop-killing terrorist Assata Shakur. Her words are the movement’s MOTTO. Two cops were just targeted for assassination in LA. Will the @NCAE retract its support for a movement featuring a cop-killer on FBI’s Most Wanted List? #ncpol

The NCAE pushed back:

“@BLMASchool is a national coalition organizing for racial justice in education that has nothing to do with the garbage you’re spouting. Get your facts straight, Phil.”

And Walker Kelly shared this statement Monday:

“If Sen. Berger wants to spend his remaining days in power issuing rambling diatribes belying how truly terrified he is of any type of organized resistance to his conservative agenda, he is welcome to do so,” Walker Kelly said. “But we all know what desperation looks like, and he need look no further than the end of his own pen to find a ‘credibility crisis.’ We will continue to affirm that Black Lives Matter, prioritizing the safety of educators and students, and fighting for the public education that all students deserve.”

Educators in Seattle founded Black Lives Matter at School four years ago. One week each February educators who support the coalition teach students about structural racism, Black history and anti-racists movements.

In recent weeks, Berger and Ballard have been increasingly critical of public schools and North Carolina educators.

Last Month, they accused Durham Public Schools of levying an unconstitutional tax on parents by charging for children to attend the district’s “learning centers,” which are day-long versions of the district’s before-school and after-school programs. The two contend such fees are illegal.

Berger has also used his website to encourage parents to apply for grants through the state’s Opportunity Scholarship program to send their children to public schools.

He used Monday’s complaint against Black Lives Matter at School to promote school choice.

“Nobody disputes that all children deserve an equal education,” Berger said. “In fact, it’s that very principle which drives Republican support for school choice: All families, not just the wealthy elite, deserve the privilege of parental school choice.”


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Greg Childress
Greg Childress

Education Reporter Greg Childress covers all aspects of public education in North Carolina, including debates over school funding, curricula, privatization, and teacher pay and licensing.