Parents with children in charter public schools, as well as those on waiting lists to get in, are speaking up for parental choice and the positive impact charter schools are having on Black student achievement across the nation. Led by the Black Alliance for Educational Options and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the new ChartersWork campaign tells a clear and compelling story of why more than 700,000 Black families have chosen charter schools. The campaign formed in response to a growing number of voices from San Antonio to Washington, DC calling on the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to reconsider the position it took in July to put a moratorium on charter schools.
The campaign is launching with a letter from more than 160 Black education and community leaders who are calling on the NAACP to reconsider and learn more about how charter schools are helping Black families.
Signees include Cheryl Brown Henderson, daughter of Oliver Brown, plaintiff in Brown v. Board of Education, and founding president and CEO of the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research; Geoffrey Canada, president of the Harlem Children’s Zone; Mariama Carson, founder of Global Preparatory Academy Charter School and wife of Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN); Dr. Howard Fuller, founder and chair emeritus of Black Alliance for Educational Options; Dr. Michael Lomax, president of the United Negro College Fund; Bishop Reginald Jackson of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; Dr. Rod Paige, former US Secretary of Education; George Parker, former president of the Washington Teacher’s Union; Dr. Steve Perry, founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Schools; and more.
Citing a shared understanding that Black students are getting a raw deal in America’s schools, and are frequently underserved by the traditional public education system, the ChartersWork campaign is calling on the NAACP’s national board to reconsider the organization’s call for a moratorium and learn more.
“Over 60 years ago my father joined with numerous parents to stand with the NAACP and fight for all African American students stuck in a separate, broken education system. Brown v. Board of Education created better public education options for African American students, and made it the law of the land that neither skin color, socioeconomic status, nor geography should determine the quality of education a child receives,” said Cheryl Brown Henderson, daughter of Oliver Brown, plaintiff in Brown v. Board of Education and founding president and CEO, Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research. “I am eternally grateful to the NAACP for their leadership on this case and for giving African American families the opportunity to send their children to the best schools that would help them to succeed. But I am troubled that in 2016, the NAACP would oppose placing better educational choices in the hands of families across the country. Charter public schools present African American families, especially those in low-income communities, with the choice to choose a public option that is best for their child. We must protect this choice.”
Brown Henderson and other advocates are speaking out because charter schools are working for Black students. According to Stanford University’s CREDO 2015 Urban Charter Schools Report on students in 41 urban regions across the country, low-income Black students attending charter schools gained 33 percent more learning in math and 24 percent more learning in reading each year as compared to their traditional public school peers.
“For generations, the NAACP has been at the forefront of the fight for political, educational, social and economic equality for Black Americans. This is why their resolution calling for a nationwide moratorium on charter schools, many of which serve the same Black families the NAACP is fighting to protect, is inexplicable,” said Jacqueline Cooper, president of Black Alliance for Educational Options. “The truth is, banning new charter schools will only widen the achievement gap for low-income and working-class Black children by reducing the number of high-quality educational options available and increasing the number of names on existing waiting lists. As a result, there will yet again, be another generation of Black children who will not be prepared to go to, through and beyond college to become economically independent adults.”
More than 20 years after the formation of the first charter school, there are now more than 6,800 charter schools across 43 states and the District of Columbia, educating nearly three million children. Black students account for 27 percent of charter school enrollment nationally, versus just 15 percent of traditional district school enrollment. And the number is growing. One in 10 Black students who attend a public school in this country attends a charter school. And many of the one million names on waiting lists to get into charter schools are Black children.
“The reality is that for too long, many traditional schools have been leaving Black students behind,” said Shirline Wilson, a parent in Washington state whose third child to go through public schools has chosen a charter school. “Charter schools are meeting the needs of so many families like mine and providing real opportunities for kids who deserve equal access to a great education.”
ChartersWork will run through the end of 2016 and focus on elevating Black voices and stakeholders from the civil rights and charter communities, dispelling myths and putting the focus of this conversation back on what works for children.