In Charter School Fight, Who Speaks for Communities of Color?
At the NAACP's national convention last month in Cincinnati, the gathering of more than 2,000 delegates approved a resolution calling for a moratorium on charter schools, equating them with "the privatization" of the traditional public education system.
Days later, more than 50 African-American and social justice advocacy groups, including the Black Lives Matter network, unveiled a new policy agenda that also called for a moratorium on charter schools, arguing they represent a "systematic attack" on communities of color.
Charter schools have always represented a flashpoint in the education space. But the demands from the NAACP and the Black Lives Matter-affiliated groups highlight a new wrinkle: After years benefiting from a reform-friendly K-12 agenda that allowed its schools to flourish through the elimination of caps and increased funding at the state and federal levels, the charter sector now finds itself in the crosshairs of a burgeoning and wide-scale debate over who truly holds communities of color in their best interest.
"The issue of charter schools has become a very complicated one, especially for our community, the black community," says Hiram Rivera, executive director of the Philadelphia Student Union, one of the dozens of groups that helped craft the second policy agenda.
Charter schools also have come under fire in a number of states, with Washington's teachers union – along with its chapter of the League of Women Voters and Latino advocacy group El Centro de la Raza – recently filing a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state's charter school law. In Massachusetts, the Boston City Council voted to pass a resolution opposing a November ballot question that calls for lifting a statewide cap on new charter schools in the state.
The groups associated with Black Lives Matter argue the rapid proliferation of charters is the result of billionaire philanthropists and their influential organizations – like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, among others – steamrolling poor communities of color to push a market-based education agenda without the input of teachers and parents.
Their policies, they say, make school funding more inequitable, increase segregation among students and contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline.
"Charter schools are targeted at low-income and communities of color," Rivera says. "If charter schools were all about education for all students, you would find them in poor white neighborhoods, in rural areas, in suburbs. But you don't."
As for the NAACP, the organization has been on a slow march to its proposed moratorium. In years past, it has opposed spending public money on charters, as well as adopted In Charter School Fight, Who Speaks for Communities of Color? | US News: