NAACP board approves anti-charter school resolution

Travis Pillow

Despite a full-court press from charter school supporters, the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People approved a resolution on Saturday that calls for halting the growth of charters.

The move reaffirms the civil rights organization’s longstanding positions, spelled out in a 2014 resolution decrying “privatization” in public education. But it also goes a step further, calling for a “moratorium on the proliferation of privately managed charter schools.”

A press release published after the vote said the NAACP’s call for a moratorium would remain in place until:

(1) Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools
(2) Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system
(3) Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and
(4) 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.

Charter school backers showed up in Cincinnati to explain the benefits of independent public schools, and USA Today reported that about 140 demonstrators organized by the group Memphis Lift rode buses from Tenessee to protest the vote.

“We have charter schools that are good,” Memphis Lift organizer Sarah Carpenter, a grandmother of 13, said during the protest at Fountain Square. “We are not against public schools. We want good schools of any type. Where was the NAACP when so many public schools were failing our children?”

Jacqueline Cooper, the president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, said in a statement that she was “stunned” charter school supporters were repeatedly rebuffed in their attempts to discuss the pending resolution with the NAACP’s board. But she also pledged to continue seeking common ground.

“Banning new charter schools will only widen the achievement gap for Black children by reducing the number of high-quality options available and increasing the number of names on existing waiting lists,” she said. “Low-income and working-class Black families deserve more choice, not less.”

The NAACP also formed a task force “to make recommendations and lay the foundation for a national stakeholder convening” to address issues cited in its resolution, including financial transparency and discipline practices at charter schools.

“Our ultimate goal is that all children receive a quality public education that prepares them to be a contributing and productive citizen,” Adora Obi Nweze, the chair of the NAACP’s education committee and president of its Florida State Conference, said in the organization’s statement.

Charter school critics, including the American Federation of Teachers, applauded Saturday’s developments.

This is hardly an isolated controversy for the NAACP. Some of its local leaders and allies have denounced its positions opposing school choice, including as its role in a lawsuit challenging tax credit scholarships in Florida, saying they work against the wishes of many black parents — as well as the long history of civil rights advocates supporting or creating options outside the traditional public school system.

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