Seeking oversight, civil rights protections and transparency.
By Steven Rosenfeld
October 18, 2016
The charter school industry is coming under increased attack by national civil rights leaders for its unequal and antidemocratic practices in the communities it purports to help by privatizing K-12 schools.
On Saturday, the board of directors at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ratified a resolution passed this summer at its national convention calling for a moratorium on charter expansion and strengthening charter oversight. The NAACP vote came after intense lobbying against the resolution from the industry and its allies, including editorials in the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, a letter from black pro-charter legislators from California (where the sector gets almost anything it wants), and out-of-state protesters who were bused in and interrupted the NAACP’s proceedings.
“We are moving forward to require that charter schools receive the same level of oversight, civil rights protections and provide the same level of transparency, and we require the same of traditional public schools,” said Roslyn M. Brock, NAACP chair, in a statement after the 63-member national board vote. “Our decision today is driven by a long-held principle and policy of the NAACP that high-quality, free, public education should be afforded to all children.”
“The NAACP’s resolution is not inspired by ideological opposition to charter schools but by our historical support of public schools—as well as today’s data and the present experience of NAACP branches in nearly every school district in the nation,” said Cornell William Brooks, NAACP president and CEO. “Our NAACP members, who as citizen advocates, not professional lobbyists, are those who attend school board meetings, engage with state legislatures and support both parents and teachers.”
There are now 6,700 charter schools across the country, educating 3 million students. The initial idea for charters was to create locally run experimental schools. However, as the industry has grown, especially since 2000, it has become dominated by corporate educational chains and franchises with ambitions to become national brands.
In a move increasingly typical of the K-12 privatization industry, the charter industry slammed the NAACP, claiming the industry is on the side of the children. This claim ignores what has become obvious to many in education circles: that charters are siphoning billions of public funds away from traditional public schools and leaving behind a trail of deep problems that need to be addressed, including unequal admissions and overly test-centered academics; private school boards replacing locally elected and appointed officials; and a business model that encourages fiscal corruption and self-dealing at taxpayer expense.