Big changes coming at BAEO

Travis Pillow

The country’s leading black-led education reform organization could be in for some major changes after 2016.

Howard Fuller

Howard Fuller

The Black Alliance for Educational Options announced changes were coming in a letter to supporters on Friday, but provided few details on what the future would hold.

Howard Fuller, the chairman emeritus of the organization, said its board formed a committee, which he will lead, and plans to hold a competition aimed at drawing fresh leaders to set a course for what he said could be “BAEO 2.0,” or a successor organization.

“The mission will remain,” Fuller said. “The question becomes, what is the best way in the next period to fight for that mission? It could be an entirely different organizational form. It could be a couple different organizations.”

The mission, which he said will remain sacrosanct: Serving as a black-led advocate for systemic educational change, rooted in values of social justice.

According to the letter, BAEO plans to remain under the leadership of Jacqueline Cooper, its current president, and continue its state-level activities in New Jersey, Tennessee and Louisiana — where it’s been a prominent advocate for school vouchers, charter schools, and other reforms.

Fuller said the organization has commitments to communities and funders in those states to continue its advocacy through the end of the year. What’s next will depend on who wins the national competition, what they decide, and whether the state-level operations choose to carry on with local funding.

“If you get open to the kind of change that we are saying we are open to, you have to be prepared that any number of things can happen,” he said.

The education advocacy landscape has changed since BAEO’s inception in 2000, and more black advocates have taken prominent roles at white-led reform organizations. (As one example, Fuller pointed to Shavar Jeffries’ new post leading Democrats for Education Reform.)

At the same time, the Black Lives Matter movement and its offshoots have awakened a new generation of activists — people Fuller said he hoped would be drawn to the competition, to inject new energy into the next iteration of BAEO.

“We made a decision to do it when we still have enough resources to do this without seeking additional funding for the competition itself, and we would be able to provide a runway for whoever wins the competition to move forward with the new iteration of BAEO or the new organization,” he said.

See more from Education Week.

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