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NAACP's Call for Charter School Moratorium Invites Corporate Criticism

'Our decision today is driven by a long held principle and policy of the NAACP that high quality, free, public education should be afforded to all children'

"The NAACP's resolution is not inspired by ideological opposition to charter schools but by our historical support of public schools," said NAACP president and CEO Cornell William Brooks. (Photo: alamosbasement/flickr/cc)

Despite pressure from corporate media and education reformers, the nation's largest civil rights organization voted on Saturday to approve a resolution calling for a moratorium on charter school expansion at least until issues of non-transparency and inequity are meaningfully addressed.

Saturday's vote codified one taken by delegates to the NAACP's national convention in July, and demands a moratorium until:

  1. Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools
  2. Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system
  3. Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and
  4. Charter schools cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.

"The NAACP's resolution is not inspired by ideological opposition to charter schools but by our historical support of public schools—as well as today's data and the present experience of NAACP branches in nearly every school district in the nation," said NAACP president and CEO Cornell William Brooks in a statement.

Added Roslyn M. Brock, chairman of the National NAACP Board of Directors: "Our decision today is driven by a long held principle and policy of the NAACP that high quality, free, public education should be afforded to all children."

To that end, the NAACP also on Saturday announced the creation of a special task force on education, with the goal of achieving the points laid out in the newly approved resolution.

But while such developments should be seen as good news, as historian and teacher John Thompson argued in an op-ed on Sunday, "[t]he bad news is that the call is not universally seen for what it is—a balanced effort to deescalate the education civil war which is disproportionately hurting poor children of color."

In fact, the NAACP's resolution seems to have ramped up that war.

Before and after the vote, major American newspapers including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal came out against the resolution—as did a slew of corporate education reform organizations.

The Times called the NAACP "misguided" for its stance, while the Post urged the group to "do its homework" and the Journal said voting yes would be "a sellout of the NAACP's founding principles." 

But such criticism suggests the newspapers themselves are "misguided and uninformed about what the charter school industry is doing to America's public schools," Steven Rosenfeld wrote for AlterNet.

Media outlets' "attempt to influence the NAACP board's vote this weekend reveals that they don't understand or care to understand how the industry is dominated by corporate franchises with interstate ambitions to privatize K-12 schools."

He continued:

What do the drafters of the NAACP resolution understand that these editorial boards do not? They know that the charter industry was the creation of some of the wealthiest billionaires in America, from the Walton family heirs of the Walmart fortune, to Microsoft's Bill Gates, to Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg, Reed Hastings, Mark Zuckerberg, and others, including hedge fund investors. These billionaires have pumped billions into creating a new privatized school system where those running schools can profit and evade government oversight. These very rich Americans aren't trying to fix traditional public schools, but create a parallel, privately run system that’s operating in a separate and unequal world inside local school districts.

Furthermore, wrote public school teacher and education activist Mercedes Schneider on Sunday:

The NAACP charter moratorium is not an "attack." It is accountability.

It is not good enough to note that when charters excel, they're great, or tossing off the charters "are far from universally perfect" line (which the NYT does in its op-ed) and that failing charter schools "should be shut down"—another pro-charter, clichéd non-solution that only leads to unnecessary community disruption—disruption that could be curbed if there were stronger controls in place to begin with.

As is proven by its "misguided" editorial, the NYT editorial board is reinforcing an out of touch impression, not the NAACP.

Noting, as did the NAACP, that traditional public schools are in sore need of improvement, National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen García said the resolution offered a chance to "pause and reassess" with regard to public education.

"The chorus of those of us who have been sounding the alarm on the many long-standing structural and governance problems that have plagued charters in recent years is growing. The time is right to pause and reassess," García said a statement. "We strongly support more inclusive and otherwise positive alternatives to charter schools. We should invest in proven strategies—strategies such as smaller class sizes, parental involvement, magnet and community schools—that we know help to improve the success of all of our students.”

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