NAACP Fighting for Quality Education for All (2 posts)
1. Why the NAACP is Suing New York (Benjamin Todd Jealous)
2. NAACP Draws Line in Sand Against Charter Schools
(by Billy Wharton)
Why the NAACP is Suing New York
By Benjamin Todd Jealous
Published: June 3, 2011
[Originally published in The Washington Post]
For 102 years, the NAACP has fought to ensure that all our
children have access to high-quality public education. Our
founders made improving education our primary strategy for
improving America. They did so because they knew from
experience that educational inequities are not only the
product of broader inequalities and dangerous social
tensions but also maintain them.
We believe that if we make all our schools great places to
learn, we will have more than better institutions and
better-prepared students - we will have a better country.
Toward this end, we filed a lawsuit last month on behalf of
New York City's public schoolchildren and their parents.
The NAACP has a long history in New York. One hundred years
ago this month, our first local branch in the nation was
founded in Harlem. Since then, thousands upon thousands of
New York students, parents and grandparents have
volunteered with the NAACP to end the mistreatment of
This lawsuit was filed for the most common reasons we have
sued boards of education across the decades: Students are
being grossly mistreated, their parents are being deeply
disrespected and the entire community stands to suffer.
There are two issues we are particularly concerned about.
First, the city has located charter schools under the same
roofs as traditional public schools in a way that is unfair
and unjust. Their poor handling has led to many complaints
from our members and their neighbors, including:
* Students in the traditional public school must now
eat lunch at 10 a.m. so that charter school students
can enjoy lunch at noon.
* The "regular school's children" had library access
for a little over four hours so that the "new
charter school's kids" could have access for almost
* Traditional school students" were moved to a
basement, where they were next to the boiler room,
to make room for their charter school peers, and
teachers of the regular students were forced to
teach in the halls due to lack of space.
We are asking that the court require the city to follow
state law and handle these shared space situations
Second, inequitable co-locations exacerbate the problem
created by the city's persistent failure to follow the law
and engage parents before making major changes. New York
state law requires the city to involve parents before
announcing its intention to shut down a school or make way
for a charter to share a school's space.
We filed suit against the city in February 2010. New York
City's Department of Education lost the case in March 2010
and lost its appeal in July 2010. Yet it continued to close
schools without regard for the law or a court order
enforcing the law. The lawsuit we filed last month asks the
court to enforce its judgment requiring the city to
collaborate with communities on efforts to support and
improve local schools before it shuts them - something the
city has failed to do time and again.
The city's actions impede learning, increase tensions among
students and tear at the fabric of communities. When one set
of students is perceived as getting preferential treatment
over another, or the city refuses to work with parents to
fix problems at a school before closing it, the inequity
leaves all our children suffering.
Some have criticized the NAACP for joining the teachers
union in this cause. Unable to refute the facts of our case,
these critics question our motives, apparently also unable
to comprehend that we are independent actors.
We have always been clear that just as we praise teachers
for dedicating their lives to a heroic profession, we have
no tolerance for bad teachers or bad schools. To spur the
changes needed to help students succeed, we even stood with
many of these critics when a Rhode Island district fired all
the teachers at Central Falls High School.
For a century, the NAACP has practiced the maxim that
Shirley Chisholm often reminded us of: There are no
permanent friends, no permanent enemies, just permanent
interests. In this case, as with our past education cases,
our permanent interest is clear: High-quality public
education for all children and a stronger nation for us all.
[Benjamin Todd Jealous president and CEO of the NAACP.]
NAACP Draws Line in Sand Against Charter Schools
by Billy Wharton
Bronx County Independent Examiner
June 8th, 2011 9:39
Something seems to have woken up the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). After years
of political sleepwalking through the worst of the
Conservative backlash and the rise of Neoliberalism, the
veteran Civil Rights organization has taken a courageous
stance against the expansion of charter schools in New York
City. Despite heavy pressure from politically well-
connected charter owners and even a march on their Harlem
office by pro-charter school parents, NAACP spokespeople
have held strong to their opposition. The President of the
New York State Chapter of the group, Hazel Dukes, even
turned up the temperature of the conflict by publicly
stating that those parents who support charters are serving
the interests of the "slave masters."
This struggle has, thus far, been carried out in the
courtroom and on the pages of the daily newspapers in New
York City. The controversy began when the NAACP joined in
with a United Federation of Teachers (UFT) lawsuit that aims
to block charters who are trying to invade school buildings
that currently contain public schools. The tactic is called
"co-location" and it is an important measure employed by
charter schools looking to establish themselves in a
neighborhood and eventually muscle out the local public
It takes a lot to make the politically insulated charter
owners blink, but the dual effort of the UFT and the NAACP
has certainly struck a nerve. A June 2, 2011 opinion piece
in the Daily News penned by the United Negro College Fund
President Michael Lomax and the infamous former Washington
DC, schools chief Michelle Rhee lambasted the NAACP for
allegedly, "fighting to deprive kids and families of better
educational options." Later the pair turned to a bit of
race baiting by claiming, "It's [the NAACP] fighting not for
the right of kids of color to get a good education." They
ended with a shameless misuse of the great African-American
radical thinker and founder of the NAACP, W.E.B. DuBois.
To the surprise of many, the NAACP held its ground. A June
8, 2011 Daily News piece by President Benjamin Todd Jealous
responded to Lomax and Rhee sharply. "The NAACP," Jealous
wrote "believes the city should prioritize fixing these
inequities so that every child in New York City - not just
the 4% who enter charter schools by lottery - has an
opportunity to succeed academically." The Civil Rights
activist went on to vividly paint of picture of the
disparities between well-financed charter schools and their
cashed starved public school counterparts.
Of course, Jealous stopped short of declaring war against
the charters. For instance he might have mentioned the
growing number of research reports that indicate that
charter schools have failed to live up to the myths of
success produced by inflated advertising budgets. For
instance, a 2009 study by CREDO, an educational research
project of Stanford University, reported that in reading, 72
percent of New York City charter schools are producing
results that are the same or worse than comparative public
schools. Credo's national study found that 37 percent of
charter schools produce results that are significantly worse
than a typical public school and another 46 percent are
about the same. Such less than impressive performances come
by measuring the very things that charters are supposed to
excel at - the anti-education technique of teaching to the
test. Even by their own measure of success charters are
mediocre at best.
Reservations aside, the NAACP may have drawn an important
political line in the sand. Thus far, the charter schools
have successfully won the allegiance of a critical section
of African-American parents in New York City. These are
parents who have made the wrong political decision for the
right personal reasons. Faced with a crumbling public
education system, the conditions of which have, in part,
been produced by the siphoning of funds by the charters,
they have migrated to privately owned schools. They, like
other parents, want the best education for their children.
Yet, what the charters offer are little more than
militaristic rote learning aimed at, but still unable to,
pumping up test scores and fattening their own bottom lines.
Enter Hazel Dukes' caustic retort about serving the slave
masters. Much like their 19th century counterparts, the
charter owners, and the Wall Street financiers who back
them, are interested in only one thing - increasing profits.
And they don't care how many young lives, especially the
lives of young people of color, are ruined in the process.
So, kudos to the NAACP for taking such a courageous stand.
If charters lose the support of a section of the African-
American community it is possible to begin to think about
the real reform New York City schools needed - namely, the
complete elimination of all charter schools. This would, in
turn, open a space to begin serious initiatives to transform
the public education system in this City. Parents may
finally wake up to the idea that our children's collective
educational potential is far more complex and precious than
any standardized test. They deserve an education system
capable of encouraging their curiosity not reducing their
dreams to multiple choice questions.
[Billy Wharton is a writer, activist and the editor of the
Socialist WebZine. His articles have appeared in the
Washington Post, the NYC Indypendent, Spectrezine and the
Monthly Review Zine.]
Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.
Submit via email: [log in to unmask]
Submit via the Web: http://portside.org/submittous3
Frequently asked questions: http://portside.org/faq
Search Portside archives: http://portside.org/archive
Contribute to Portside: https://portside.org/donate