Eliminate for-profit charter schools and provide more equitable and adequate funding for schools that serve students of color. These were some of the recommendations the NAACP suggested in a report released on Wednesday and titled “Quality Education For All ... One School at a Time.”
The civil rights organization said no federal, state or local taxpayer monies should be allocated for for-profit charters, nor should public funding be sent from non-profit charters to for-profit charter management companies.
“For-profit operators have no business in education,” said Katie Duffy, the CEO of Democracy Prep Public School in New York, according to the report. “I don’t understand it. There’s no good reason for our states to allow this to happen to our kids. They are not assets and liabilities and they shouldn’t be treated as such.”
The report was conducted through hearings led by 12 members of the NAACP’S Task Force on Quality Education including newly named interim president Derrick Johnson. Meetings were held from December 2016 through April 2017 in New Haven, Conn., Memphis, Orlando, Los Angeles, Detroit, New Orleans and New York.
Last year the NAACP pushed for a moratorium on charter schools, citing that they lead to segregation, disproportionate methods of discipline, financial mismanagement and expansion in low-income communities that lead to sub-prime mortgages. A Task Force was created in October.
In response to the report released this week, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools said public charter schools are working for Black students.
“In communities where public schools have under-served families for generations, the best charter schools are showing something better is possible,” said National Alliance for Public Charter Schools President and CEO Nina Rees, in a statement. “The NAACP has always pushed for better, and we invite the organization to lock arms with us as believers in public education. Charter schools alone cannot right all wrongs in our nation’s education system, just as they should not be exclusively blamed for them.”
Spokesperson for the organization, Vanessa Descalzi, told The Tribune the group does agree that public schools need equity in funding and that a system needs to be in place that works for all students, including those of color. However, the charter rhetoric is misleading because charter schools are public schools, she said.
“There’s a lot we agree on and hope we can keep a dialogue going,” Descalzi said. “In this case, the NAACP’s definitions and underlying assumptions regarding charter schools are something we would not agree with or would use to describe them.”
During the 2016-17 school year, the report stated that 3.1 million students attended public charter schools, compared to 50 million who attend public schools; and of the 7.8 percent of Black students in public schools, almost one million of those attend charters.
“We are here to say that we have been impacted by school closings and the birth of charter schools and school privatization,” said Irene Robinson, a Memphis parent, in the report. “(Charters) have pushed our children out, which have destroyed our community, destroyed the history of our schools. Our schools are the heart of our community and the root of our history.”
School closings are not systemic to Memphis. In 2013, the School Reform Commission closed more than 20 schools within the District of Philadelphia, to help close its budget gap.
The NAACP’s report also recommended:
Investing productively in low-performing schools and schools with significant opportunity and achievement gaps.
Develop and enforce robust charter school accountability measures (renewal process, a common accountability process, monitor and require charters to admit and retain students, create and monitor disciplinary guidelines and require charters to hire certified teachers).
Require fiscal transparency and equity regarding the sources of revenues and how those resources are allocated.
“I agree with them about the state of the schools in our communities are not good and that they need more funding and that something needs to be done, but their idea of something that needs to be done is like ignoring everything that is happening now,” said David Hardy who founded Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia Charter School. “I’m saddened that the NAACP sided with the status quo and the same old thing as opposed to innovation and opportunity.”