NAACP Passes Resolution for a Moratorium on Public Charter Schools
Today, the NAACP held it’s long awaited vote and unfortunately, for Black families around the country demanding better options, the NAACP has opted to place a moratorium on public charter schools.
The NAACP will hold to a moratorium until these demands are met.
- Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools.
- Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system.
- Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate.
- Cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.
What Parents Have to Say to the NAACP
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the Black Alliance for Educational Options launched a campaign, Charters Work—creating a space for Black parents to take action on the NAACP’s proposed moratorium. Add your name if you agree that Charters Work and that a ban on new charter schools is not the solution Black families need.
The NAACP Votes This Weekend and School Choice Advocates Have Had a Lot to Say
Literally across the country school choice advocates have stood up against the NAACP in defense of charter schools these past couple of weeks leading up to the vote.
Let’s start with Washington, D.C. Last week I went to D.C. to attend Roland Martin’s townhall hosted at Howard University asking panelists, “Is School Choice the Black Choice?” I left disappointed that panelists were unable to get past the semantics and focus on how we can provide higher-quality schools for African-American students, you can read my thoughts here.
Staying in D.C., the Daily Signal, profiles Shadija Maddox and her daughter Aniyah who attends Achievement Prep—the District’s highest performing public charter school. Maddox, a Black Lives Matter and school choice supporter comments on why she chose to send her daughter to a charter school:
“She never intended on enrolling Aniyah in a charter school, but with Ward 8’s poor achievement records, it was the only option. ‘The public school systems just need to be revamped,’ Maddox told The Daily Signal.
In my hometown of Atlanta, Maureen Downey at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution featured Jondré Pryor—in his ninth year as principal of KIPP South Fulton Academy and the 2016 Georgia Charter School Association Principal of the Year—who stood up in defense of his charter school that serves 93 percent African-American students with an 80 percent African-American staff. Read what Pryor told the NAACP when he attended the convention in July.
In West Seattle, Shirline Wilson, one of the signers of the letter from Charters Work, says, “the NAACP is off-base because her own experience shows charter schools can be a lifeline for students of color who are poorly served by traditional public schools.” Read the full article in The Lens.
Kelly Amis, producer and director at TEACHED, wrote a piece on why she’s calling the NAACP today.
Rashad Turner, a former Black Lives Matter leader spoke out against the proposed moratorium in The Hill:
I don’t advocate privatizing the entire education system, despite what the billion dollar teachers’ union industry, NAACP, and Black Lives Matter may tell you. I’m a black father who wants the best education for my child and yours. That’s why, after leading Black Lives Matter St. Paul, Minn., I left the organization over their call to eliminate charter schools.
On Education Post, Sharif El-Mekki delivers a harsh critique that the NAACP is not looking out for Black families. And Duncan Kirkwood, Western New York advocacy manager for the Northeast Charter Schools Network, urges the NAACP to not end up on the wrong side of history.
In the St. Louis Business Journal, Brian A. Murphy, board president of The Children’s Educational Alliance of Missouri, speaks to how public charter schools are serving his region and across the country.
In addition to voices from parents, the New York Times’ Editorial Board published a piece calling the NAAP’s proposed moratorium “A Misguided Attack on Charter Schools.” And The Washington Post suggest the NAACP needs to do its homework.
What’s Happening With the NAACP in Florida?
The NAACP is involved in a lawsuit in Tallahassee, Florida where over 92,000 kids, many of them children of color and from low-income families, are at risk to lose their privately funded scholarships to attend the private schools of their choice. It’s worth noting that another plaintiff in the lawsuit is the Florida Education Association—the state’s largest teachers union.
In the Daily Signal Virginia Ford, coming from a legacy of fighting for civil rights, speaks of her disappointment in the NAACP for failing Florida’s children of color.
How You Can Add Your Voice
On Thursday, September 29, at 8:30 PM ET Education Post is hosting a Facebook Q&A on Why the NAACP Is Wrong to Propose a Moratorium on Charter Schools.
With blogger Chris (Citizen) Stewart, we’ll have an honest conversation about what Black families need and want from our public schools.
I know some of you are thinking—that sounds awesome! But, what’s a Facebook Q&A and how do I participate?
Well, first of all, it is awesome! And second, it’s easy to figure out and participate (especially since I know you’re on Facebook all the time anyway ), but here’s a quick how-to on Facebook Q&A’ing.
The second live event is Roland Martin’s, “Is School Choice The Black Choice?” If you’re in the Washington, D.C. area RSVP now for this televised event on October 5, from 6:00-9:00 p.m.
This discussion will include supporters and opposers of charter schools. Some panelists include Steve Perry, principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School; Dr. Ramona Edelin, former director, D.C. Association of Charter Public Schools and Russlyn Ali, former assistant secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.
On the other side, the program will feature Hilary Shelton, Washington Bureau, senior vice president for advocacy and policy; Fred Ingram, executive vice president of Florida Education Association and Troy LaRaviere, the former principal at a number-one rated neighborhood school with the Chicago Public School System.
UPDATE: Black Charter Leaders to NAACP
After BAEO and NAPCS released their signed letter from over 160 Black educational leaders, I had the chance to hop on the phone with a few of the signees—Cheryl Henderson Brown, founding president and CEO of the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research and daughter of plaintiff Oliver Brown of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education desegregation case, Sekou Biddle, UNCF’s vice president of advocacy, and Steve Perry, founder and head of schools of Capital Preparatory Schools.
Check out what more they had to say about the NAACP’s proposed moratorium on charter schools.
In another piece from The 74, Cynthia Tucker Haynes, comments in support of the letter with a strong statement:
The NAACP wants to slam the door on that chance for children of color to boost their academic achievement. That’s the wrong fight for an organization that has spent more than half a century fighting for black children to get a better education.
Read more of what she has to say here in The 74.
Black Charter Leaders to NAACP: Hands Off Our Schools
The Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and the National Alliance for Public School Options (NAPCS) released a signed letter from 160+ educational leaders calling the NAACP to reconsider its proposed charter moratorium set to be voted on in mid-October.
The letter proposed a meeting with the board prior to the October vote:
We ask for a meeting with NAACP national board representation, to take place before your fall convening, to discuss the very serious implications the proposed resolution will have for Black families who want and deserve high-quality educational options for their children.
Among some of the most notable signees include, Dr. Michael Lomax, CEO of United Negro College Fund, Jacqueline Cooper, president, Black Alliance for Educational Options, and George Parker, former president, Washington Teacher’s Union.
The letter was also released in conjunction with BAEO and NAPCS’ new campaign ChartersWork which “tells a clear and compelling story of why more than 700,000 Black families have chosen charter schools.” The campaign “will run through the end of 2016 and focus on elevating Black voices and stakeholders from the civil rights and charter communities, dispelling myths and putting the focus of this conversation back on what works for children.”
Check out the 74 for more coverage on the letter and ChartersWork campaign.
There Cant Be Gatekeepers When It Comes to Educating Our Children
In an article in Black Enterprise, Kevin Chavous, attorney, author, and national education reform leader, wishes that Black Lives Matter and NAACP chapters could talk to Marva Collins today. In a legendary meeting with Marva Collins, she said to him, “We lose too many kids to bad schools therefore, we should mimic all great schools that work, even charter schools.”
Chavous goes on to say that our children can’t afford to have gatekeepers and education deciders for the Black community. He says:
Either you educate kids their way, through the one system that they support, or you are wrong.
And this method simply won’t work if the real aim is to cultivate a learning environment where high-quality education is accesssible to each and every child.
Would Martin Luther King Have Supported Charter Schools?
If you’re wondering what MLK would have thought about charter schools, the answer is out. According to his closest aide and fellow civil rights legend, Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, the answer is an emphatic yes to charter schools.
An article by Real Clear Life profiles Dr. Walker who in 1999 co-founded the first-ever charter school in New York State (the school is now called Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem).
Here’s his remarks on Dr. King and charters:
Oh, yes, without a doubt. Because [Dr. King] knew how important a good education was. All the people he surrounded himself with were very well-educated, and had good education, and saw the big picture. And we saw it as a complement to what we were doing….Dr. King saw very instantly and clearly that education was a prime prerequisite for what we were doing, and a complement to the Civil Rights Movement.
Interested in Dr. Walker’s charter school? Me too! He wrote a book about it, “A Light Shines in Harlem.”
This is Nashville’s Story and It’s a Good One.
Vesia Hawkins a former Metro Nashville Public Schools student, parent and staffer, says to the local NAACP Nashville chapter in the blog Volume and Light, “Metro Schools is not a district with a charter problem.” While the claims in the proposed moratorium may have merit, Hawkins says that is not the case in Nashville. In fact, she says, “charters have provided a great assist to the district.”
She lets the numbers tell the story:
- Authorization and accountability: From 2003 to 2016, Metro Nashville Public Schools has opened approximately 33 charter schools (an average of 2.2 school starts per year) and closed four.
- Academic Success: According to the district’s academic performance framework, in 2015, eight of the 15 highest performing k-8 schools were charters (denoted by the highest designation “excelling”)
- Further, using the same tool, all but one charter school entered the 2016 school year in good standing.
- Charter schools students make-up: 66 percent Black, 22 percent Hispanic, 11 percent White; 86 percent economically disadvantaged; 11 percent English language-learners; and 13 perecent students with disabilities.
Charter School Moratorium Isn’t This Parent’s Choice
Perhaps the most convincing story out yet expressing the need for public charter schools is that of Connie “Mama” Williams who “moved her grandchildren out of a school in the Oakland district that she saw as troubled and into a public charter school.”
Over the course of a few days this summer, the East Bay Times spent time with Connie and more than a dozen other African-American parents and caregivers as part of a fellowship encouraging parent involvement in schools.
While Connie received her high school diploma, she walked across the stage unable to read. Determined to break the intergenerational struggle of illiteracy and limited possibilities, Connie made the choice to remove her grandchildren from a school that simply wasn’t performing to one that provided opportunity, and happened to be charter.
Something I think is often true for parents and as the authors note, “Her choice was a personal one, not a condemnation of district schools.”
The NAACP vs. Minority Children
In a scathing article by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the NAACP is called out for “taking orders from its union backers”—those union backers being the United Federation of Teachers and National Education Association—”to oppose charter schools.” The Journal reports:
The NAACP in 2011 filed a lawsuit with the United Federation of Teachers to prevent the expansion of some New York City charter schools, which are now driving the Empire State’s educational progress. The National Education Association dropped $100,000 in 2014 for a partnership with the NAACP. The unions expect the NAACP’s help in fending off charter competition.
This partnership between NAACP and teacher-backed unions was explored further by Mike Antonucci in Intercept. After Diane Ravitch reprinted a letter to the editor of Boston Globe by John L. Reed, chairman of the education committee of the NAACP’s New England Conference, who wrote in opposition of Massachusetts’s ballot Question 2— an initiative that would allow the expansion of charter schools in the state by 12 per year—a commentator responded with some pertinent biographical information.
…before becoming the chairman of the education committee of the NAACP’s New England Conference, John L. Reed was once an officer of the Barnstable Teachers Association, a member of the Massachusetts Teachers Association board of directors, a member of the National Education Association board of directors, and chairman of NEA’s Black Caucus. He also was “instrumental” in promoting a partnership between the New England NAACP and MTA.
Antonucci notes that “not many people would find this ‘disturbing,’ but everyone should find it relevant.”
The WSJ isn’t alone in publications that have come out against the NAACP’s proposed moratorium. The Washington Post has called out the decision as an “ill-conceived opposition.” And has “urge[d] NAACP leadership to put the interests of African American children ahead of the interests of political allies who help finance the group’s activities — and veto this ill-conceived resolution.”
Of course, not everyone is in agreement that it’s such an “ill-conceived opposition.” Back to Massachusetts Ballot Question 2. According to Truthout:
Democrats passed a resolution this month opposing charter school expansion. The resolution states that the pro-charter campaign is “funded and governed by hidden money provided by Wall Street executives and hedge fund managers.”
In response, Liam Kerr, state director for Democrats For Education Reform Massachusetts released a statement:
Democratic leaders, including Hillary Clinton and President Obama support high-quality public charter schools. The Massachusetts party insiders are so out of step they won’t even listen to those who stand with low-income families and families of color desperate for a better education for their children. There was nothing democratic about this vote.
The New York Times (NYT) is right. The “debate over race and charters has long been simmering.” In an article by Kate Zernike, the NYT explores the divide over charter schools through conversations on race, wealth and access to options with representatives from DFER, NAACP, Movement for Black Lives and Education Post’s very own Chris Stewart who comments on his personal mission to find a quality school for his son.
Black Lives Matter, Except When They Enroll In Charter Schools
Missing from both platforms is the voice of Black people who choose charter schools, students who are well served by them, educators who work in them, or staff working in education philanthropies that support them. All of those voices qualify as “Black lives,” but, as educational minorities, they are denied their place in two major forums of Black thought.
On his blog, Citizen Ed, Stewart gives credence to the voices of Black people who choose charter schools. Parent Gwen Samuels asks, why are parents of color expected to keep sacrificing their kids in unjust schools? and Nekima Levy-Pounds, Black Lives Matter activist, president for the Minneapolis NAACP, civil rights attorney, and charter school parent reminds us on Stewart’s Rock the Schools podcast (read the transcription here) that Black organizations are not monolithic, never have been and never will be.
How’d This All Begin? Read the History Below
On July 29, education blogger and professor Julian Vasquez Heilig released “breaking news” on his blog, announcing that the NAACP was calling for a moratorium on any new charter schools across the country.
So first things first: Did the NAACP actually call for a “moratorium” on charter schools?
Well, yes and no. The moratorium has only been proposed and not approved. The NAACP’s board will vote on the resolution in the fall of 2016.
The History of NAACP and Charters
So you might be thinking (like I was): Wait, I thought the NAACP supported charters?
Well, they do and they don’t.
According to an article by Lauren Camera in U.S. News & World Report, the national NAACP has in the past “opposed spending public money on charters” and the “privatization” of schools. With that said, they’ve been very slow to arrive at this proposed moratorium.
Let’s go back to Julian Vasquez Heilig’s “breaking news”:
So for those of you who emailed me yesterday saying that NAACP chapters in various places have gone rogue supporting charters—know that the force of the national organization is NOT on their side.
Even the NAACP isn’t clear on its own position. Many local NAACP chapters did and still do support public charter schools. And these chapters aren’t going “rogue,” they’re listening to the numbers.
In an interview with Roland Martin, charter school founder Steve Perry had this to say on local chapter support:
They [the NAACP] couldn’t be more out of touch if they ran full speed in the other direction. Americans are deciding with their feet that they want to go to better schools. [They are] out of touch even with their own chapters.
In fact, Perry claims that in his extensive travels visiting Black communities around the country, local NAACP chapters are the biggest proponents of school choice.
How Do Black Families Feel About Charter Schools?
There’s not much survey data specifically on how Black parents feel about charter schools nationally, but it’s pretty clear that they resoundingly support a parent’s right to choose the best school for their child.
- 72 percent of Black parents believe that charter schools offer options to low-income communities rather than take resources from traditional public schools. (Education Post, August 2015).
- 82 percent of Black parents say families should be allowed to choose their child’s public school, regardless of where they live (NAPCS, April 2016).
- 70 percent of Black voters support more school options for parents, including traditional public schools, charters and even voucher and scholarship programs (BAEO survey of four states in August 2015).
So Why the Moratorium If #ParentsSay They Support Public Charters?
*In walks Julian Vasquez Heilig*
The 2016 NAACP convention voted and approved the following resolution. I am honored it originated from the California Hawaii NAACP, where I serve as Education Chair.
It’s no secret that Vasquez Heilig isn’t a supporter of public charter schools.
In an interview with Tracy Dell’Angela on his podcast Truth for America, Vasquez Heilig expresses his antipathy for Teach For America (TFA) tied to the presence of charter schools:
There’s the political point which you don’t really want to talk about, which is TFA’s role in private control and privatization. The bottom line is that many of these charter schools could not stay in business without the constant churn of temporary labor [from TFA].
Dell’Angela later corrects the record:
It turns out there are plenty of new, traditionally-trained teachers who want to work in charters. And only a third of TFA’s corps members teach in charters.
What’s more, in Vasquez Heilig’s home state of California, district policies supported by teachers unions are actually pushing young, talented teachers to work in charter schools.
Clearly There’s Sides to This Debate, But What’s Good for the Kids?
Here’s what the evidence says:
— Brian Stanley (@drbrianstanley) August 9, 2016
— Brian Stanley (@drbrianstanley) August 9, 2016
— Brian Stanley (@drbrianstanley) August 9, 2016
So, while Black parents support charters, what they really want are good schools, whatever the type. And isn’t that what all parents want?
Here’s what Black leaders have had to say:
Jacqueline Cooper, president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) had this to say:
The fact that the NAACP wants a national moratorium on charter schools, many of which offer a high-quality education to low-income and working-class black children, is inexplicable.
Additionally, Shavar Jeffries, president of Democrats for Education Reform released a statement noting that no one is supporting low-performing or segregating charters:
Indiscriminately targeting all charter schools, even the many great public charter schools that are offering students a bridge to college, while ignoring underperforming district schools, undermines the quality and integrity of our entire education system…
We’d be happy to partner with the NAACP to sanction or shut down low-performing charter schools. We’d oppose with the same resolve as the NAACP any charter that seems designed more by a desire to segregate than to innovate.
The battle for school choice is complex and certainly divisive but what’s clear is that kids need options and they need them now. This can’t be a battle where politics takes precedence over kids. Like education blogger Chris Stewart has said education reform needs fewer lambs and more lions.