Black Education Leaders, NAACP, BLM at Odds over Charter Schools in African-American Communities

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Photography for the Mystic Valley Charter Schools (American Enterprise Institute)

The NAACP’s outward stance against the establishment of charter schools has some Black education leaders ready to go toe-to-toe over the matter. The organization’s opposition has caused quite a rift among Black advocacy groups — so much so that one leader abandoned his position over the group’s call for a moratorium on public charter schools.

According to education site The74, ex-Black Lives Matter St. Paul leader Rashad Turner announced his sudden exit from BLM earlier this month after the social justice movement also condemned the establishment of charter schools.

“Being that I am all for charter schools and education reform, and as someone who is seeking educational justice for students and families, I could no longer be under that banner of Black Lives Matter,” Turner, who is a St. Paul Public Schools parent, told The74. “Our public education system has people who are sometimes literally dying for the lack of educational opportunity. And when I think of charter schools in my community here in St. Paul and their benefit to students of color — low-income students — to call for a moratorium or an end to charter schools just lets me know that something funny is going on.”

“I’ve kind of had feelings of trickery or different things going on that didn’t align with my beliefs or value system,” he added.

Turner expressed his surprise at the fact the NAACP and BLM would call for a moratorium on public charter schools, but not do more to address issues like the over-representation of Black students in special education or the school-to-prison pipeline.

But the former BLM leader wasn’t the only one to express dissatisfaction with the organizations’ denunciation of charter schools. The Daily Signal reports that a coalition of over 160 Black educators and community leaders penned a scathing letter to the NAACP on behalf of the “700,000 Black families choosing to send their children to charter public schools, and the tens of thousands more who are still on waiting lists.”

The 12-page letter was in response to the association’s resolution for a ban on all “privately managed charter schools,” which the NAACP argued have “weak oversight” and puts schools in low-income neighborhoods at “great risk,” the news site reports. The NAACP’s resolution also blamed charter schools for the “increased segregation” of public school systems while likening them to “predatory lending practices” that prey on students in poor neighborhoods.

The majority of Black Americans beg to differ, however. A 2015 poll conducted by the Black Alliance for Educational Options in Alabama, New Jersey, Tennessee and Louisiana found that approximately two thirds of African-Americans supported charters. Another recent poll by Education Next revealed that 46 percent of African-Americans were in favor of public charter schools while 29 percent were against them.

“Not only is the [NAACP’s] mischaracterization of charter schools misinformed, but the proposed nationwide moratorium on new charter schools would ultimately reduce opportunities for Black students, many of whom come from low-income and working-class families,” the coalition’s letter read. “A blanket moratorium on charter schools would limit Black students’ access to some of the best schools in America and deny Black parents the opportunity to make decisions about what’s best for their children.”

Instead of imposing a moratorium, the group suggested that they and other organizations work together to improve low-achieving schools while expanding those that are doing well.

The coalition, organized by the Black Alliance for Educational Options and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, went on to cite a recent study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University. According to the report, Black students in charter schools gained 14 extra days of learning in reading and 14 extra days of learning in math per year compared with their Black peers in traditional district schools.

The results were even more telling for low-income students, who were found to have gained the equivalent of 29 extra learning days in reading and 36 extra learning days in math when attending a charter school.

“You’ve got thousands and thousands of poor Black parents whose children are so much better off because of these schools,” Howard Fuller, founder of the Black Alliance for Educational options told The New York Times.

The NAACP’s resolution for a moratorium on charters won’t become official until board members vote on it in October.

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