DFER’s Shavar Jeffries Cowers from Debating Cal State’s Julian Heilig
By way of a follow up, on August 08, 2016, I posted the NAACP’s charter school resolution history, which reflects the organization’s growing concerns with problems associated with federally-enabled charter school proliferation. The 2016 resolution is the most detailed regarding the NAACP’s concerns about charters, including charter contribution to increased segregation; focus on punitive discipline practices; violation of parent and student rights, and fiscal mismanagement exacerbated by public funding directed by privately-appointed charter boards.
The above are serious concerns, thus prompting the NAACP to encourage a moratorium on privately-managed charter schools even as it also encouraged both state and local legislation to “ensure that parents have access to charter school advisory boards” and “executive action to strengthen local governance and transparency of charter schools, and, in doing so… protect students and families from exploitative governance practices.”
In its resolution, the NAACP notes that it is not alone regarding its concerns about charter schools and the resulting call for a moratorium on charters (which happen to be a federal funding favorite beginning with No Child Left Behind, NCLB):
…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.
On August 03, 2016, the corporate-reform organization, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) president Shavar Jeffries released the following statement dismissing the NAACP et al.’s detailed concerns about charters and the resulting call for moratorium on associated federal dollars:
The public charter school moratorium put forward at this year’s NAACP convention does a disservice to communities of color, particularly the parents and caregivers who seek the best school options available to prepare their children for the demands of the 21st century. This moratorium would contravene the NAACP’s historic legacy as a champion for expanding opportunity for families of color. In communities of color throughout our country, public charter schools are providing pathways to college and careers that previously were not available. Indiscriminately targeting all charter schools, even the many great public charter schools that are offering students a bridge to college, while ignoring underperforming district schools, undermines the quality and integrity of our entire education system. We should be fixing what’s broken and expanding what works, not pre-empting the choices of parents of color about the best schools appropriate for meeting the particular needs of their children.
To be sure, as with any government program involving many providers, there are some public charter schools that perform quite poorly, just as there are a dramatically larger number of traditional public schools that under-perform. We’d be happy to partner with the NAACP to sanction or shut down low-performing charter schools. We’d oppose with the same resolve as the NAACP any charter that seems designed more by a desire to segregate than to innovate. And we’d, likewise, be happy to work with the NAACP to sanction or shut down low-performing or segregative traditional schools. But let’s be clear about one thing: the research clearly shows that as a whole, Black children benefit greatly – in terms of academic achievement and college enrollment – from attending high-quality public charter schools.
It is also true that some states have poor authorization and oversight policies concerning public charters, just as many states have failed to properly intervene in low-performing traditional schools, often for decades. We can and should work together to crack down on poor-performing charter authorizers wherever they exist, for example in Arizona and Texas. But we also can and should work together to expand access to high-performing charters with long waiting lists predominantly filled by parents and families of color in states like Louisiana, New York, Rhode Island, and Tennessee and cities including Boston, D.C., Newark, and San Francisco.
Across the country, particularly in our urban communities, public charter schools are a beacon of hope that empower parents and families with greater control over their child’s future. To continue to provide students with the public education they deserve and preserve their fundamental civil rights, we strongly urge the NAACP’s National Board of Directors not to approve the resolution come October. We are committed to working with the membership of the NAACP, other allies in the civil rights community, and fellow education advocates to expand quality public school choice for every child in every neighborhood. We must continue to build upon President Obama’s progressive education reform legacy and historic investment in charter schools, and we cannot allow for setbacks after all the progress we’ve made. Our children’s futures depend on it.
DFER also noted that Jeffries would “discuss the NAACP resolution”:
For more from Shavar, watch him discuss the NAACP resolution on NewsOne Now with Roland Martin: http://newsone.com/3497545/naacp-calls-for-charter-school-moratorium/
However, the above “discussion” was unbalanced, as it involved three individuals who could be identified as pro-charter (Jeffries, self-declared “America’s most trusted educator,” Steve Perry, and Roland Martin) and one individual representing the NAACP, president Hilary Shelton.
Thus, on August 08, 2016, CA NAACP education chair Heilig challenged Jeffries to a one-on-one debate on charter schools. It seemed that Jeffries would participate, as Heilig noted on August 10, 2016:
I challenged Shavar to debate here in California. He responded he’d like me to come to Newark.
But then, on August 12, 2016, Jeffries began backpedaling in the name of *seeing if Heilig were serious*:
And, don’t you know, the Jeffries cowering was completed before the day was done:
There is no excuse for Jeffries’ cowardice. He is the president of a corporate reform machine, and his refusal to debate Heilig based on such a flimsy excuse is itself juvenile.
Or perhaps Jeffries is simply afraid. Maybe he saw Heilig’s professional vitae.
If Jeffries cannot bring himself to face Heilig alone, I volunteer to participate on the side of charter school critic. That way, Jeffries could bring a pro-charter friend, thereby refashioning Heilig’s frightening one-on-one challenge to a two-on-two debate.
I, too, have a blog that Jeffries could dismiss on Twitter as something he would expect from his sixth-grader. (Incidentally, my May 2013 post about Jeffries’ pro-charter friend Steve Perry’s dissertation continues to be popular, with 16,609 views to date.) However, I’m pretty sure my recently published book on school choice, School Choice: The End of Public Education? (TC Press, July 2016) is at least on the eighth-grade level.
Another of my books, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education (Information Age, April 2014), in which I dissect DFER, might even be considered high-school level reading.
And lest Jeffries should be confused: My challenge to debate him and the partner of his choice alongside Heilig is indeed serious.
The only question is: Will Jeffries cower twice in a matter of days?
Is two-on-two-debate comfort not enough for the DFER president?
We will see.