Citing increased segregation, disproportionate methods of discipline, financial mismanagement and expansion in low-income communities that lead to sub-prime mortgages, members of the NAACP are pushing for a moratorium against charter schools.
The civil rights organization is working in conjunction with the Journey for Justice Alliance and other community organizations on an effort to prohibit the Federal Charter schools program, which it said has pumped $3 billion into new charter schools — many of them now closed or failing. The resolution was passed at the NAACP’s national meeting last month in Cincinnati, Ohio by delegates who voted by a show of hands.
Before final adoption, the resolution, as required by NAACP bylaws, must go before the group’s National Board, which meets in October.
A number of charter school advocates, including the Washington, D.C.-based office of Black Alliance for Educational Options, immediately and passionately spoke out against the resolution.
“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,” said Jacqueline Cooper, president of the organization, which focuses on parental options in children’s education. “The resolution is ill-conceived and based on lies and distortions about the work of charter schools. At their next meeting, we urge the board to reject this resolution and protect parental choice.”
The resolution titled “Calling for Moratorium on Charter School Expansion and Strengthening of Oversight in Governance and Practice,” argued charter schools target low-income areas and communities of color. It said civil rights organizations have documented violations of parent and children’s rights, conflicts of interest and psychologically harmful environments with several rapidly proliferating charter management organizations.
Additionally, the resolution stated policies force district campuses to accommodate co-locations of charter schools, resulting in shortages of resources and space and increased tension and conflict within school communities. The resolution seeks to advocate against any state federal legislation that commits or diverts public spending, allows tax breaks or establishes preferential advantages to for-profit, private and other charter schools.
The Journey for Justice Alliance, a national organization that seeks community-driven school improvement, said it applauds the NAACP “for joining the cacophony of voices from urban communities across the United States demanding the end of unwarranted expansion of charter schools across the United States.”
The statement, on the alliance’s Facebook page earlier this month, also said, “The NAACP’s call for a moratorium on Charter school expansion is in the most honorable civil rights tradition of advocacy grounded in local realities.”
Others however disagreed.
“The public charter school moratorium put forward at this year’s NAACP convention does a disservice to communities of color, particularly the parents and caregivers who seek the best school options available to prepare their children for the demands of the 21st century,” said Shavar Jeffries, president of Democrats for Education Reform. “This moratorium would contravene the NAACP’s historic legacy as a champion for expanding opportunity for families of color. In communities of color throughout our country, public charter schools are providing pathways to college and careers that previously were not available.”
Jeffries continued, “Indiscriminately targeting all charter schools, even the many great public charter schools that are offering students a bridge to college, while ignoring under-performing district schools, undermines the quality and integrity of our entire education system. We should be fixing what’s broken and expanding what works, not pre-empting the choices of parents of color about the best schools appropriate for meeting the particular needs of their children.”
Pennsylvania State Rep. James Roebuck (D-Phila.), a charter school report last September that expressed a concern for lack of openness in tax-funded schools.
“Charter schools in Philadelphia alone have racked up nearly $500 million in debt, often at rates of 8 or 8 1/2 percent,” Roebuck said in a statement last year. “Taxpayers ultimately fund all of it, including millions of dollars in consulting and legal fees and questionable building costs.”
When reached by phone, Darlene Callands, president of the African Americans for Educational Opportunities non-profit organization that came out of the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Alliance for Education Opportunities, said she was in favor of charter schools, but declined to comment regarding the NAACP’s stance.
The School District of Philadelphia’s Charter Schools Office’s website carries the names of two charter schools heavily attended by African-American students that have pending non-renewal/revocations: World Charter Communications Charter School and Delaware Valley Charter High School.
The School Reform Commission cited low test scores and fiscal management as reasons to revoke the charters.