A group of 160 black education and community leaders from across the country are pushing back against an attempt by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to halt all future charter school growth.
The coalition, organized by the Black Alliance for Educational Options and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, sent a letter to NAACP board members on behalf of “700,000 black families choosing to send their children to charter public schools, and the tens of thousands more who are still on waiting lists.”
The letter came in response to a resolution drafted by the NAACP that calls for a “moratorium on the proliferation of privately managed charter schools,” arguing that charter schools have “weak oversight” and put schools in low-income communities “at great risk.”
A NAACP staffer provided a copy of the proposed resolution but was unable to comment.
>>> Read the NAACP’s full proposed resolution below.
In the response letter, dated Sept. 21, the coalition of 160 black education and community leaders wrote:
A substantial number of black parents want to have the option of enrolling their children in high-quality charter schools. For many urban black families, charter schools are making it possible to do what affluent families have long been able to do: rescue their children from failing schools. The NAACP should not support efforts to take that option away from low-income and working-class black families.
Charter schools are publicly funded schools that are required to follow state standards such as Common Core. They do not charge tuition but instead of being run by the government, charter schools are operated by private nonprofit or for-profit organizations.
Typically, local and state school boards are in charge of granting private or nonprofit organizations the ability to launch a new charter school. If charter schools do not meet strict achievement standards, the organization’s charter is revoked and given to a new organization to operate.
In exchange for that responsibility, charter schools generally have more autonomy over their daily operations, including hiring, firing, budgeting, and instruction decisions.
The NAACP’s proposed resolution accuses charter school operators of “targeting low-income areas and communities of color,” and said their privately-appointed school boards “do not represent the public.” They also compared charter school expansions in low-income communities to “predatory lending practices.”
The response letter from the group of 160 education leaders, clergy, and public servants addressed many of the NAACP’s “cherry picked” and “debunked” claims, arguing that charter schools have been particularly beneficial to black and low-income families. They wrote:
The notion of dedicated charter school founders and educators acting like predatory subprime mortgage lenders—a comparison the resolution explicitly makes—is a far cry from the truth. In reality, charter schools generally receive less per-pupil funding than traditional district public schools and often receive little or no funding to purchase buildings or maintain classrooms. Despite these hurdles, charter schools are helping students achieve at higher levels than traditional district schools.
The coalition also cited a study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University:
According to the most thorough and respected study of charter school results, conducted by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, black students learn more when they attend charter schools. Black students in charter schools gained the equivalent of 14 extra days of learning in reading and 14 extra days of learning in math per year compared with their black peers in traditional district schools. For low-income black students attending charter schools, the learning gains were even more dramatic—the equivalent of 29 extra learning days in reading and 36 extra learning days in math.
The NAACP’s resolution will not be made final until board members meet mid-October. The 160 co-signers of the pro-charter school letter are hopeful to convince the board to change its mind, requesting a meeting to “discuss the very serious implications the proposed resolution will have for black families who want and deserve high-quality educational options for their children.”