The NAACP’s Increasing Concerns with Publicly-funded Charter Schools
On July 29, 2016, Julian Heilig of the blog, Cloaking Inequity, published a post about the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) 2016 position on charter schools. Heilig serves as education chair of the California Hawaii NAACP.
In short, the NAACP has formally called for a moratorium on charter schools. But the resolution does more than just strongly advocate putting the brakes on charter school expansion; it also details the reason for the NAACP’s resistance against charter school proliferation, a resistance that the NAACP began formally voicing in 2010 and more strongly in 2014. (Archives of NAACP resolutions can be found here.)
NAACP concern over the ill effects of charter school expansion is increasing as years pass, as is evident in the language of its three resolutions on the issue. To begin with, here is the NAACP’s 2010 resolution:
WHEREAS, charter schools are public schools which were originally designed to explore new approaches to educate students; and
WHEREAS, in some cases, charter schools have become a school model that is used to segregate students; and
WHEREAS, charter schools have too seldom informed the education community regarding innovative instructional strategies that accelerate academic achievement in the general population of students; and
WHEREAS, the Center for Research in Educational Outcomes (CREDO) which examined charter school data in fifteen (15) states and the District of Columbia confirmed that only 17% of the charter school students in the study outperformed their peers, while 46% performed no better and 37% performed worse; and
WHEREAS, charter schools operate more autonomously than traditional public schools in the use of funds, adherence to state laws and school policies, selection and removal of students, and the selection and removal of staff, thus creating separate and unequal conditions for success; and
WHEREAS, charter schools draw funding away from already underfunded traditional public schools; and
WHEREAS, the NAACP recognizes that at best, quality charter schools serve only a small percentage of children of color and disadvantaged students for whom the NAACP advocates relative to said population left behind in failing schools; and
WHEREAS, the NAACP recognizes the urgent need to provide quality education for all children, not only those fortunate enough to win lotteries to attend existing quality charter schools; and
WHEREAS, the NAACP is committed to finding broad based, effective solutions for immediate implementation to improve the quality of public education for all children.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP will strongly advocate for immediate, overarching improvements to the existing public education system; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP rejects the emphasis on charter schools as the vanguard approach for the education of children, instead of focusing attention, funding, and policy advocacy on improving existing, low performing public schools and will work through local, state and federal legislative processes to ensure that all public schools are provided the necessary funding, support and autonomy necessary to educate all students; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP will urge all of its Units to work to support public schools throughout the nation to educate all children to their highest potential.
In 2014, the “resolved” portion of the 2010 resolution was modified as follows:
SCHOOL PRIVATIZATION THREAT TO PUBLIC EDUCATION
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People opposes the privatization of public schools and/or public subsidizing or funding of for-profit or charter schools; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the NAACP will continue to advocate against any state or Federal legislation which commits or diverts public funding, allows tax breaks, or establishes preferential advantages to for-profit, private and/or charter schools; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the NAACP calls for full funding and support of high quality free public education for all children.
In 2016, the NAACP retained the 2014 resolutions and added considerable support in its “whereas” section– the contemplation of which apparently led to resolution language calling for a moratorium as well as state and local legislation mandating parental inclusion on charter boards as well as legislation to strengthen entities investigating charter fraud and corruption.
The full text of the 2016 resolution, which still has to go before the NAACP national board for formal approval in the fall of 2016, is as follows:
CALLING FOR A MORATORIUM ON CHARTER SCHOOL EXPANSION AND STRENGTHENING OF OVERSIGHT OF GOVERNANCE AND PRACTICE
WHEREAS, charter schools have been a rapidly growing sector of the education system, increasingly targeting low-income areas and communities of color; and
WHEREAS, charter schools with privately appointed boards do not represent the public yet make decisions about how public funds are spent; and
WHEREAS, charter schools have contributed to the increased segregation rather than diverse integration of our public school system; and
WHEREAS, research and reports have documented disproportionately high use of punitive and exclusionary discipline in addition to differential enrollment practices that violate protections of student rights for public schooling; and
WHEREAS, research and civil rights organizations have documented violations of parent and children’s rights, conflicts of interest, fiscal mismanagement, and psychologically harmful environments within several rapidly proliferating charter management organizations; and
WHEREAS, analyses on annual missing charter funds have been estimated at nearly half a billion dollars nationally; and
WHEREAS, 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; and
WHEREAS, current policies force district campuses to accommodate co-locations of charter schools, resulting in shortages of resources and space and increasing tension and conflict within school communities; and
WHEREAS, weak oversight of charter schools puts students and communities at risk of harm, public funds at risk of being wasted, and further erodes local control of public education; and
WHEREAS, the NAACP shares the concerns of the Journey for Justice Alliance, and alliance of 38 organizations of Black and Brown parents and students in 23 states, which has joined with 175 other national local grassroots community, youth, and civil rights organizations calling for a moratorium on the Federal Charter schools program, which has pumped over $3 billion into new charter schools, many of which have already closed or have failed the students drawn to them by the illusive promise of quality.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP reaffirms its 2014 resolution, “School Privatization Threat to Public Education,” in which the NAACP opposes the privatization of public schools and/or public subsidizing or funding of for-profit or charter schools; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the NAACP will continue to advocate against any state or Federal legislation which commits or diverts public funding, allows tax breaks, or establishes preferential advantages to for-profit, private, and/or charter schools; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the NAACP calls for full funding and support of high quality free public education for all children; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the NAACP calls upon units to seek to pass legislation at the State and Local levels that will ensure that parents have access to Charter School Advocacy Boards and that Charter Schools be required to provide schooling for students that are dismissed from school for disciplinary reasons; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the NAACP will seek legislation to strengthen investigative powers of those bodies that oversee charter school fraud, corruption, waste, etc.; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, as a tool to help address exclusionary student disciplinary policies and practices of publicly funded charter schools, NAACP units should: a) review the US Department of Justice-US Department of Education joint guidelines on school climate and school discipline http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-departments-education-and-justice-release-school-discipline-guidance-package- : b) encourage charter school administrators to apply that guidance to its student disciplinary practice; and c) work with parents of charter school students in appropriate cases to file complaints with the Office of Civil Rights, US Department of Education, to challenge unwarranted exclusionary practices (e.g., suspensions and expulsions); and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the NAACP hereby supports a moratorium on the proliferation of privately managed charter schools; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the NAACP opposes bills that would weaken the investigative powers of any legislative body from uncovering charter school fraud, corruption, and/or waste; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the NAACP supports legislation AND EXECUTIVE ACTIONS that would strengthen local governance and transparency of charter schools, and, in so doing, affirms to protect students and families from exploitative governance practices.
In response to the NAACP’s pointed concerns about charter fraud, corruption, discipline, diverted funding, and the federal pumping of billions into charter schools that close or provide “illusive quality,” US Secretary of Education John King dismisses the NAACP request for federal moratorium on charter funding by using a nonsense term for such a moratorium, “artificial barrier”— as though charter expansion stops at “natural barriers,” like where land meets water. King then reiterates his intention to continue funding illusive “quality” even as he dodges federal responsibility by saying it is up to states to monitor that oft-tossed, empty term.
Finally, King adds that “our [federal] position has always been that charters should be a part of the public school landscape and can be a driver of opportunity for kids.”
“Can be”– carefully chosen, safe words that present a positive face but no commitment to make sure the supposed resulting “driver of opportunity” is guaranteed.
King will be guaranteeing nothing except unceasing federal funding for (place trade mark here) “the growth of charters that are good.”
Then there’s that “always” King tosses into his pro-charter verbiage: Let’s just keep funding a federal charter program because we’ve *always* done so (that is, since the charter craze took hold in the mid 1990s and became federally cemented in No Child Left Behind. I detail this history in my school choice book).
But what the feds have *never* done is bothered to figure out how to not fork federal charter grants over to schools that never open. As for sending millions to a state with charters embroiled in scandal (Ohio), USDOE excused itself by admitting that it awarded money without thoroughly reviewing state applications for federal charter millions.
As for NAACP concerns like the signing away of student rights for those who attend charter schools, King offers nothing.
The good news is that King’s days are numbered.
Dig in your heels, NAACP, and make your well-noted charter concerns an unavoidable issue for our next US secretary of education.
As a fellow defender of the community school, I thank you for your efforts.