Over the weekend, the NAACP ratified a resolution that calls for a moratorium on charter school expansion. The announcement doesn’t mark the first time the nation’s oldest civil rights organization has spoken out against charter schools, but the highly anticipated move has reverberated in cities across the country, including New York City.
“The NAACP’s resolution is not inspired by ideological opposition to charter schools but by our historical support of public schools,” Cornell William Brooks, the organization’s president and CEO, said in a statement. The resolution says the organization will seek a moratorium on charters until:
1. Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools
2. Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system
3. Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and
4. Cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.
The resolution drew immediate praise from UFT head Michael Mulgrew. “In New York City, charter schools have created a system of ‘haves and have nots’ and do not accept or keep comparable numbers of high-needs students as traditional public schools – whether special education students, homeless children or English Language Learners,” Mulgrew wrote in a letter to the NAACP.
The letter argues that charter schools are disproportionately responsible for student suspensions and explicitly called out Success Academy, which has been the city’s poster child for controversial “no excuses” disciplinary practices. Mulgrew also complained that charter schools compete for space when they are co-located with traditional public schools, and sap public funding.
Mayor Bill de Blasio aired some of those criticisms over the summer, angering many charter supporters in the process. But there isn’t much he can do. Charter school advocates have a strong position in New York City: The mayor can’t keep charters from expanding, or even legally deny them space.
Still, while charter schools educate just 10 percent of the city’s students, their parents represent an important political bloc. Tens of thousands of charter school students and their families rallied in September for the sector’s growth, and when asked, many of them dismissed the NAACP’s resolution as out of touch.
“If something is working, why take it away from people?” asked Yusuf Taylor, a parent at Success Academy Harlem 5.
That debate will likely continue this week in New York — the NAACP’s Brooks is scheduled to speak at NYU this Wednesday. In the meantime, here are some notable reactions to this weekend’s news.
Re @NAACP shameful charter opp, good news is it won't deter blacks who want better edu for kids. In NYC, >100k kids in charters, mostly blk.— Joel Klein (@JoelIKlein) October 15, 2016
— Mona Davids (@MonaDavids) October 15, 2016