Condemnation of Charter Schools Exposes a Rift Over Black Students
Students at North Star Academy, a charter school in Newark. Two civil rights organizations have called for a moratorium on charter schools. Credit Kirsten Luce for The New York Times
With charter schools educating as many as half the students in some American cities, they have been championed as a lifeline for poor black children stuck in failing traditional public schools.
But now the nation’s oldest and newest black civil rights organizations are calling for a moratorium on charter schools.
Their demands, and the outcry that has ensued, expose a divide among blacks that goes well beyond the now-familiar complaints about charters’ diverting money and attention from traditional public schools.
In separate conventions over the past month, the N.A.A.C.P. and theMovement for Black Lives, a group of 50 organizations assembled by Black Lives Matter, passed resolutions declaring that charter schools have exacerbated segregation, especially in the way they select and discipline students.
They portray charters as the pet project of foundations financed by white billionaires, and argue that the closing of traditional schools as students migrate to charters has disproportionately disrupted black communities.
Black leaders of groups that support charter schools have denounced the resolutions, saying they contradict both the N.A.A.C.P.’s mission of expanding opportunity and polls showing support for charters among black parents. The desire for integration, the charter school proponents say, cannot outweigh the urgent need to give some of the country’s poorest students a way out of underperforming schools.
“You’ve got thousands and thousands of poor black parents whose children are so much better off because these schools exist,” said Howard Fuller, a longtime civil rights activist and the founding president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, which encourages support among blacks for charters.
The debate about race and charters is long simmering. Black residents of cities like New Orleans, which has converted nearly all of its public schools to charters in the decade since Hurricane Katrina, have complained that the people who come in presenting themselves as education reformers tend to be white outsiders. Charter school leaders themselves have begun to acknowledge that they do not have enough blacks in their ranks or in front of their classrooms.
But to some black parents, those concerns seem academic.
Chris Stewart recalled feeling “like a complete loser” when his son was entering middle school in Minneapolis. A specialty public school had no room; other parents were warning him away from two nearby traditional public schools; and he could not afford a reduced tuition of $12,000 — what he called “the poor people’s discount” — for a private school.Condemnation of Charter Schools Exposes a Rift Over Black Students - The New York Times: