Since the NAACP created a resolution, to be ratified at a later date, calling for a moratorium on new charter schools, it has run into all kinds of resistance. The expected pro-charter groups opposed the resolution, as did the editorial boards of the New York Times
and the Washington Post.
This weekend, the NAACP approved the resolution. I sent a personal email congratulating the group on its courage, and took out a membership for the first time.
Black children, who make up 15 percent of the overall school enrollment, make up 25 percent of the charter school population. Clearly the schools are a popular option in black communities. But the NAACP's concern is that too many of the charters attended by black children "mirror predatory lending practices." I'm not sure the analogy works exactly, but the concept is accurate. If you want to find poorly run charter schools where the people who "own" them are out for a quick buck at the expense of the children, look at schools serving children from low income families, whether black, brown or white. It's tough to get away with offering shoddy education to the children of high income, well educated parents, but unfortunately, it's all too easy to stick the words "college preparatory academy" into the name of a school serving low income students and sell it as a way for children to get a better education than they get at their local public schools. As poorly as district schools sometimes serve their children, some charters do even worse.
It's important to remember the NAACP isn't condemning all charters, and it isn't calling for the closure of schools currently in operation, only a halt to their expansion until some conditions are met.
We are calling for a moratorium on the expansion of the charter schools at least until such time as:
(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) 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.
Charters have been around for 25 years, and during that time, they've been subject to few regulations and less transparency and accountability. In their two-and-a-half decades, we've had a chance to get a sense of how charter schools operate, for better and for worse. We've seen ample evidence of the ways some unscrupulous people use the schools as their personal piggy banks, often getting away with draining state funding from the schools and cheating their students out of educations for years before they're found out. Too many people are still operating their educational scams undetected. It's time to do what we can to get the bad actors out of the charter school business by exposing the ways they abuse the system, and maximize the number of charters that are dedicated to giving quality educations to their students.
A Yeah-Yeah-I-Know Note.
Yeah, yeah, I know public schools don't always spend their money wisely, and they don't always do as good a job as we want them to do. But their finances and policies are far more transparent than charter schools, by law, so we can peer inside them more easily to see what's going on. Transparency and accountability aren't guarantees schools will be run effectively, but they are necessary prerequisites to allow the public to see problems and work toward improving the schools. That should be true of all publicly funded district and charter schools.