Members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) are calling for “a moratorium on the proliferation of privately managed charter schools.”
A resolution passed at the 2016 NAACP National Convention in Cincinnati, held in July, reaffirmed NAACP’s 2014 resolution titled “School Privatization Threat to Public Education.” The document declares charter schools with privately appointed boards “do not represent the public yet make decisions about how public funds are spent [and have] contributed to the increased segregation rather than diverse integration of our public school system,” among other things.
“Researchers have warned that charter school expansions in low-income communities mirror predatory lending practices that led to the sub-prime mortgage disaster, putting schools and communities impacted by these practices at great risk of loss and harm,” the resolution says.
The resolution will become official NAACP policy if the national board approves it at its next meeting.
Charters Subject to ‘Strict Oversight’
Larry Sand, president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network, says it’s unlikely a lack of oversight is the real reason NAACP is calling for an end to charter schools.
“There is plenty of oversight now,” Sand said. “If a charter is not doing what it is supposed to do, parents will vote with their feet and the school will be shuttered. But traditional public schools do need more oversight. If one of them is failing, the typical response is to throw more money at it. A bad school is rarely closed, and its teachers are almost never fired.
“The boards may be appointed, but charter schools are still subject to strict district and state oversight,” Sand said. “I think NAACP may be miffed that their teacher-union friends don’t get to control charter boards the way they do in traditional public schools.”
‘A Permanent Black Eye’
Rick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, says if local governments adopt NAACP’s proposed moratorium, the entire charter school system will suffer.
“It would give a permanent black eye to the sector,” Hess said. “One of the things that has made charter schools successful is it has been a fairly bipartisan issue with a broad base of public support. If any state were to suddenly suggest that there was something so troubling with charter schools that they needed to be frozen, I think that would be a permanent setback.
“And if you are running high-quality charter schools, you’ve got teachers who you hope to keep and grow into teacher-leaders,” Hess said. “You’ve got people who you want to grow into principals, and the whole model works as a river that flows forward. If suddenly people in these schools know that there are going to be no future opportunities and no schools to open, that’s going to discourage a lot of people currently in charters or who are looking to work in charters.”
Hess says NAACP’s resolution is also bad for students.
“Just think about the sheer number of children on waitlists, waiting to get into charters that currently don’t have seats for them,” Hess said. “These families think charters are offering them much better alternatives than their district schools, and we’re talking hundreds of thousands of children who will be told, ‘Sorry, no more schools will be opening up—no matter how much you want them to.'”
Elizabeth BeShears ([email protected]) writes from Trussville, Alabama.