The NAACP Has A Plan To Overhaul The Nation's Charter Schools

After traveling the country, these are the group's recommendations.
Former president and CEO of the NAACP Cornell Brooks listening to testimony during the second day of confirmation hearings on Sen. Jeff Sessions' nomination to be U.S. attorney general.
Former president and CEO of the NAACP Cornell Brooks listening to testimony during the second day of confirmation hearings on Sen. Jeff Sessions' nomination to be U.S. attorney general.
Joshua Roberts / Reuters

A NAACP task force that spent several months traveling the country learning about charter schools released a report Wednesday with the group’s conclusions. The report comes less than a year after the civil rights organization controversially passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on the growth of charter schools last October.

The report does not explicitly address how task force members feel about the October resolution, but instead provides ideas for how both charter schools and traditional schools should improve. The report calls on the NAACP to create a plan of action and a new coalition of groups to push back on charter schools’ perceived lack of accountability and transparency.

The report notes that while charter schools were created to act as labs of innovation and share their best ideas with public schools, “this aspect of the promise never materialized.”

Over 3 million children in the U.S., about a third of whom are black, currently attend charter schools. In its previous call for a moratorium on expansion of these schools, the NAACP expressed concerns that charters perpetuate segregation, subject students to overly harsh discipline practices, divert funding away from traditional public schools and face weak oversight. The new report does not back down from these assertions.

At the same time, the report also levels judgment on the traditional public school system for its shortcomings.

“We know more than ever that our resolution was in the right direction,” Alice Huffman, chair of the NAACP’s Task Force on Quality Education, told HuffPost in June. “I do think we need to talk about poor-performing public schools ― we came across a lot of that as well.”

Indeed, some education leaders have said the NAACP should focus on fixing all failing schools, regardless of type. Education leaders of color have also taken pains to push back on the NAACP’s criticisms of charter schools.

“Not only is the resolution’s mischaracterization of charter schools misinformed, but the proposed nationwide moratorium on new charter schools would ultimately reduce opportunities for Black students, many of whom come from low-income and working-class families,” said a September 2016 letter to the NAACP from black education leaders.

During a time when the Trump administration is working to expand the number of charter schools in the name of civil rights, the symbolic importance of pushback from the nation’s oldest civil rights organization looms large. The report recommends the full elimination of for-profit charter schools. For-profit schools aren’t allowed in a number of states, but are prevalent in Michigan, the home state of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

“The widespread findings of misconduct and poor student performance in for-profit charter schools, demands the elimination of these schools,” says the report.

The report maintains that some charter schools serve students well, although quality is highly uneven based on location. At the same time, it says, “even the best charters are not a substitute for more stable, adequate and equitable investments in public education in communities that serve all children.”

To rectify some of these issues, the report recommends states create tougher standards for authorizing and renewing charter schools, while monitoring whether such schools are taking pains to serve all students and not just pushing out the vulnerable ones. It also recommends states hold charter schools to the same level of fiscal transparency as they hold traditional public schools, and adopt a fairer way of funding the latter. That way, poor students of color will not constantly get the short end of the stick ― a common phenomenon around the country.

“Charters won’t fix what’s wrong with public education,” task force member Gloria Sweet-Love previously told HuffPost.