BALTIMORE, Md. – The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is throwing millions of black families under the bus by continuing a campaign against charter schools, which have helped to boost academics for minority students.
The move aligns with the organization’s political position in a Democratic Party dominated by organized labor leaders who view school choice as competition with traditional public schools, rather than the needs of black children who have been trapped in sub-par and dangerous public schools for decades. The NAACP received a $100,000 “national partnership grant” from the National Education Association – the nation’s largest teachers union – in December 2014, one of numerous payouts to the group over the years, according to the NEA’s last federal LM-2 report.
It seems the payments are paying off.
A resolution approved by members at the NAACP National Convention in Cincinnati last week lists the organization’s grievances with charter schools – which range from alleged misuse of funds to management by appointed boards to “disproportionately high use of punitive and exclusionary discipline – before vowing to fight against them in several ways. The grievances, coincidentally, are exactly the same as the NEA’s frayed talking points.
“The NAACP reaffirms its 2014 Resolution, ‘School Privatization Threat to Public Education,’ in which the NAACP opposes the privatization of public schools and/or public subsidizing or funding of for-profit or charter schools,” the 2016 resolution reads.
“The NAACP will continue to advocate against any state or federal legislation which commits or diverts public funding, allows tax breaks, or establishes preferential advantages to for-profit, private and/or charter schools,” it continues.
The organization also vowed to lobby lawmakers to crack down on charter schools currently in operation by beefing up the authority of oversight boards to launch investigations, and pointed to the U.S. Department of Justice’s view on student discipline as an example of best practices.
“The NAACP calls upon units to seek to pass legislation at the state and local levels that will ensure that parents have access to charter school advisory boards and that charter schools be required to provide schooling for students that are dismissed from school for disciplinary reasons,” the resolution reads.
“The NAACP will seek legislation to strengthen the investigative powers of those bodies that oversee charter school fraud, corruption, waste, etc.”
The resolution concludes by calling on a moratorium on all “privately managed charter schools” – those not modeled after failing unionized public schools – and a promise to support “legislation and executive actions that would strengthen local governance and transparency of charter schools and, in so doing, affirms to protect students and families from exploitative governance practices.”
Julian Vaszuez Heilig, education chairman for the California Hawaii NAACP where the resolution originated, hailed the move as a good thing for black families, despite overwhelming evidence that many minority student excel in charter schools.
In a column for the blog Cloaking Inequality, Heilig pointed out that the resolution’s “approval as policy will not be official until the National Board Meeting in the Fall of 2016.”
The resolution follows the recent release of student performance data from New York that shows charter schools are driving academic gains in that state, and in New York City in particular. An analysis of student performance data by Families for Excellent Schools shows the number of charter schools on New York City’s list of 50 top performing schools increased from six in 2013 to 19 in 2016, according to the New York Daily News.
State education data shows student pass rates on standardized tests for reading among the city’s charter school students increased from 29.3 percent in 2014-15 to 43 percent in 2015-16. Math proficiency for NYC charter school students went from 44.2 percent to 48.7 percent, according to the Excellent Schools report.
The city’s public charter school student population is made up of 87 percent minority students, and 61 percent low-income students. The top performing K-8 school in the state of New York achieved the academic distinction with 98 percent black and Hispanic students, 75 percent of whom come from low-income families, according to the New York Post, which also highlighted strong public support for charters in the city.
“(U)nlike the rest of the school system, public charter schools are helping to shrink the achievement gap for black and Hispanic students — who scored 73 percent higher than their peers in district schools,” the Post reports.
Keli Goff, a black woman columnist for The Daily Beast, also pointed out that a growing percentage of black families support charter schools, and said she believes education may be one issue that could convince many blacks to abandon the NAACP and other Democratic groups in favor of the school choice perspective promoted by Republicans.
“A 2015 study found that 65 percent or more of black parents in Louisiana, New Jersey, and Tennessee support charter schools—and that 70 percent of black voters believe in some from of educational choice for parents,” Goff wrote.
“In fact, support for charter schools has actually grown among black Americans in recent years—showing that these advocacy groups for black Americans are moving in the opposite direction of the people they claim to serve and represent.”
(I)f groups like the NAACP want to remain the voice of people of color, then they have to listen to all people of color, not just those reciting one party’s platform and talking points. As I have written before, younger black Americans are less party loyal than our parents and grandparents. It is our generation that now has young children beginning their school years, which means issues like charter schools will increasingly determine who younger people of color vote for.
While Donald Trump may be a turnoff this year, he won’t always be on the ballot. The NAACP and other social justice groups that I know care about our community should prepare accordingly, or risk fading into irrelevance.