On charter school policy, the National Education Association and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People are still in lockstep.
At its yearly convention in 2016, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People voted for a resolution that called for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools in the U.S. As I wrote at the time, the NAACP’s talking points and verbiage had come directly from the National Education Association playbook with all the inherent fibs, half-truths and exaggerations intact. Much of this can be explained by the fact that NEA and the American Federation of Teachers have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the NAACP over the past ten years.
Now a year later, there’s a new NAACP report on charter schools which suspiciously mimics the revised NEA report on charters issued just weeks before at the union’s yearly gathering. Oh, there were hearings held by the NAACP earlier this year where both sides of the debate were supposed to be heard, but pro-charter dissenters were given short shrift, leading many to believe that the hearings were little more than a dog-and-pony show. And unsurprisingly, the NEA heartily approved of the report’s findings, with the union’s VP Becky Pringle providing the weasel words: “America’s educators stand in solidarity with our students of color. As the NEA declared earlier this summer, handing over students’ education to privately managed, unaccountable charters jeopardizes student success, undermines public education and harms communities.”
The new union-inspired NAACP policy repeats its call for a moratorium and will continue to do so until certain criteria are met – only school districts (typically controlled by the local teachers union) should be able to grant a charter, for-profit charters should be outlawed, only certified teachers should be allowed to teach in charters, charters should be more accountable – blah, blah, blah. In other words, NEA/NAACP wants charters to become just like the traditional public schools (TPS) that millions of parents are desperately trying to escape. Interestingly, neither the NEA nor NAACP seems to be concerned by a lack of accountability in TPS. When a TPS is failing, the union whine usually goes like this, “Our high school grads are reading on a third grade level because schools are underfunded, or because the students come from poor families, or English isn’t their first language, or…” (Never explained is how charters usually get better results than TPS and do it with considerably less money.)
At the very same time the NAACP rolled out its new policy, the results of a charter school study were announced. Summing up its stunning findings, Richard Whitmire writes, “Graduates from the top charter networks—those with enough high school alumni to measure college success accurately—earn four-year degrees at rates that range up to five times as high as their counterparts in traditional public schools. These are low-income, minority students from cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Newark, N.J. Their college success is going to make bashing charter schools far more challenging for the NEA and the NAACP.”
And how can NEA/NAACP explain that in 2015-2016, 73 percent of independent charter school students took the SAT as compared to just 61 percent of students in TPS?
Another challenge for NEA/NAACP is a study which compares academic and criminal outcomes between students who won a charter school lottery to those who lost. These are the best kinds of studies as there is a direct comparison between two groups of students both trying to leave their local district schools for charters. The authors found that “lottery winning students had higher math and reading scores, were 23 percent more likely to graduate on time, and 52 percent more likely to enroll in college. Female students were 59 percent less likely to report a teenage pregnancy, while male students had a 100 percent reduction in incarcerations.”
Are all charter schools wonderful? Of course not. Are all TPS awful? Of course not. If there is a terrific TPS in your neighborhood, no one will force your kid to go to a charter. In fact, if there is a great TPS in a given area, there would be no point for a charter to open. So typically, charters tend to proliferate in areas where the local TPS is failing, usually where poor people and minorities live.
At the end of the day, it should be a parent’s choice as to where to send their kids, and many are choosing charters. In fact, the charter school population has more than doubled since 2008. We now have almost 3 million students attending nearly 7,000 charters nationwide.
Which brings us back to the unconscionable NAACP report.
“The NAACP seems tired and unfocused,” the Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church complained in an open letter earlier this month. Derrell Bradford, executive director of the New York Campaign for Achievement Now, was more direct. He asserted, “…where some of America’s best public schools educating some of America’s blackest and most disadvantaged kids are concerned, the NAACP’s duplicitous engagement of black folks on the issue of charter schools is the worst kind of betrayal.”
Amen to that.
Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.