For decades, the NAACP has been a vital champion for educational equity. That’s why their call to freeze a powerful innovation delivering four years of learning for every three years a child spends in school is mystifying.
I’m talking, of course, about charter schools. A great majority of charter schools are all about opening opportunities for students of color, many of whom were stuck in their failing neighborhood schools until quality charter schools opened their doors. Some of the best charter schools today were conceived by educators of color. These were leaders who longed for the platform and power to open the kind of schools they know all students deserve.
Here’s what NAACP simply cannot ignore: Charter schools are opening doors of opportunity for many African-American students. Black charter school students gain 36 days of learning in math and 26 in reading compared to their peers in traditional schools, according to the 2015 CREDO Urban Charter Schools Report. For Black students in poverty, learning gains are even more substantial: 59 days in math and 44 in reading.
NAACP should not ignore this fact either: African American parents are demanding more public school options. In a nationally representative survey, 82 percent of African American parents favor allowing parents to choose their child’s public school. Just last year, thousands of parents signed a letter to the NAACP that affirmed their support of public charter schools.
Somehow, within this context, the NAACP voted for a moratorium on charter schools, something that will hurt the very kids the NAACP represents, the kids on charter school waiting lists, whose parents are desperate for a spot in a school that will help their child succeed.
That’s why we don’t recognize this NAACP. The NAACP we know fights for something better in education. This NAACP is blocking the door and protecting the status quo.
As many parents and educators testified to NAACP hearings over the last year, the status quo isn’t good enough. Their children need good schools, regardless of who runs them.
Even within the charter sector, we know there is room for improvement. That’s why my organization offered to work with the NCAAP to make charter schools work better. At the hearing in Orlando, my colleague Karega Rausch testified that despite great results for some students, too many charter schools continue to underperform and fail to serve our children well. But he also explained that the blunt instrument of a moratorium does not distinguish between outstanding charter schools and failing ones.
The NAACP has yet to take us up on our offer to work together to expand quality public school offerings. But our offer stands. We believe NAACP can right this bad decision, and join us and others in making schools better for more children of color.
We’re hopeful, and we’re not going anywhere.
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