The NAACP’s role in shaping educational policies and practices are as long as they are vital. Stemming to the organization’s support for the landmark Brown v Board of Education case that ruled against “separate but equal,” the NAACP’s commitment to ensuring racial equality in our nation’s schools has been renewed, loudly, once again following its historic announcement calling for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools last year.
Yesterday, the NAACP’s Task Force on Quality Education released its long-awaited report on education in the United States. The report, a year in the making, makes five recommendations:
(1) More equitable and adequate funding for all schools serving students of color
(2) School finance reform is needed
(3) Invest in low-performing schools and schools with significant opportunity to close the achievement gap
(4) Mandate a rigorous authoring and renewal process for charters
(5) Eliminate for-profit charter schools
The report points out that education funding in the United States is abhorrently unequal along racial lines. Even with the existence of Title I funds for impoverished school districts, affluent White districts enjoy far more resources as well as better trained and veteran teachers. While the report does mention that educational spending has not returned to pre-2008 levels it doesn’t mention the currently proposed 13.5% budget cut announced by the Trump administration – cuts that disproportionally impact students of color.
The report calls on school districts to invest in low-performing schools by attracting and retaining fully qualified teachers. In my view, this would require districts to sever ties with alternative/emergency license certification programs that charter schools rely on, like Teach For America who’s corps members replace traditionally certified teachers, that put the least-trained teachers with our most vulnerable students.
The NAACP concludes that the charter school authorization process should be limited to local school districts in an effort to increase transparency and accountability to the communities in which those charter schools would serve.
And, speaking of serving, the NAACP’s report’s final conclusion re-centers the discussion about education reform on the stakeholders who should matter most: students. Because profit-oriented organizations have one primary focus – profit – the existence of for-profit charter schools have not only led to a myriad of scandals and misconduct, but it wrongly assumes that the education of our nation’s children can, and should be, quantifiable as a market-share. We, the American tax paying public, are the shareholders of our nation’s future – not a private organization. And our investment is in our next generation not for the sake of monetary profit, rather, for the investment in our humanity and society. When for-profit charter management companies see students, they see dollar signs. When educators look at our students we see hope, and so does the NAACP.
Aside from the profits related to some charters, much of the push to expand charters has been an ideological one. The NAACP’s call for a moratorium on charter school expansion last year was met with criticism from charter school proponents over the last year who, in true nature, promote charters on ideological grounds rather than empirical evidence. But, this has always been the nature of charter school cheerleaders when you understand that charter expansion has always outpaced research into whether charters are a viable solution. But a solution for what exactly? By comparison, the medical field (which is highly regulated) discovers ailments, researches solutions, tests those solutions, identifies a solution, then administers that treatment. Charter school cheerleaders and profiteers started first with a solution in mind: defunding public schools and the introduction of competitive education markets to drive improvement and profits. All market-oriented education reforms start first from the long-held myth of the failed school and the bad teacher and charter school advocates are no different.
So, it made sense that the NAACP would call for a moratorium on the expansion of a treatment that has largely been ineffective and has proven to exacerbate racial segregation. In fact, some charter advocates no longer hide the fact that charter schools segregate along racial and class lines – they suggest that’s simply an artifact of the natural educational market. Let me reiterate that again: empirical evidence concludes that charter schools exacerbate segregation and charter proponents not only don’t care, they celebrate that fact – Orval Faubus would be proud.
Charter schools, and other market-oriented reforms, are often concentrated in non-White communities. The connection between race and class, and the impact on schools, in our nation’s history is undeniable and continues to this very day. Schools have become the battleground for the myth of meritocracy that reinforces racial deficit ideologies about non-White students and their families and the organization of a school (public or charter) should be scrutinized.
Test-prep pedagogy and behavioristic classroom management styles that are endemic within charter school models and are wrought with cultural biases that center White culture as the norm, seek to convince Whites that their success is the effort of hard work while simultaneously seeking to convince non-Whites that they not only deserve generational poverty but it seeks to release Whites from any privilege in the process. The impact that wealth inequality in this country has on educational outcomes has been studied and reported on for decades – though, it often goes unheard. The manufactured crisis – to use Bruce Biddle and David Berliner’s phrase – of failing schools opened the door for privatization in the form of vouchers and charter schools.
The NAACP’s recommendations are sound, evidence-based, and needed immediately. It is a clear direction forward for our nation’s charter schools and traditional public schools.