White America has a history of freaking out at perfectly reasonable suggestions by the black community.
Hey, maybe black people shouldn’t be slaves.
SOUTHERN STATES SECEDE! THE CIVIL WAR BEGINS!
Hey, maybe black lives should matter as much as white ones.
BLUE LIVES MATTER! MAGA! TRUMP!
Hey, maybe we shouldn’t be making money off of children’s educations?
That’s what seems to be happening at think tanks and school privatization lobbying firms across the country after a new report by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) this week.
Some news sources are characterizing the report as “radical” or “controversial.”
However, the report, titled “Quality Education for All: One School at a Time,” basically says nothing more revolutionary than that all public schools should be transparent and accountable.
That includes charter schools.
“Public schools must be public,” the report states. “They must serve all children equitably and well. To the extent that they are part of our public education system, charter schools must be designed to serve these ends.”
And why shouldn’t they?
More than 3 million students attend charter schools across the country. Approximately 837,000 of them are black. Don’t they deserve the same kinds of democratically controlled schools and fiscal responsibility as their counterparts in traditional public schools?
Somehow your local public school is able to teach kids while still keeping a record of how it’s spending its money – your money. And if you don’t like what’s being done, you can go to a school board meeting and speak up or even run for a leadership position.
How does getting rid of that help kids learn? How does operating in secret in the shadows benefit children?
The report also recommends that local communities should have more control over whether to open charter schools in their districts and calls for an end to for-profit charter schools, altogether.
Not exactly the musings of anarchist provocateurs.
Charter school cheerleaders like Education Secretary Betsy DeVos call their movement School Choice. Shouldn’t communities get to choose whether they want them there in the first place? If the program is based on the free market, let them make their case to the community before setting up shop. They shouldn’t get to make a backroom deal with your congressman and then start peddling their wares wherever they want.
Moreover, if charter schools are, indeed, public schools, why should they be allowed to operate at a profit? They are supported by tax dollars. That money should go to educating children, not lining the pockets of venture capitalists and hedge fund managers.
The authors were very specific on this point:
“No federal, state, or local taxpayer dollars should be used to fund for-profit charter schools, nor should public funding be sent from nonprofit charters to for-profit charter management companies.”
But that’s not all.
The author’s also call out charters infamous enrollment and hiring practices. Specifically, these kinds of privatized schools are known to cherry pick the best and brightest students during admissions, and to kick out those who are difficult to teach or with learning disabilities before standardized testing season. The report called for charters to admit all students who apply and to work harder to keep difficult students – both hallmarks of traditional public schools.
In addition, the report suggests charters no longer try to save money by hiring uncertified teachers. If charters are going to accept public money, they should provide the same kind of qualified educators as their traditional public school counterparts.
However, even if such reforms are made, the report is doubtful that privatized education could ever be as effective and equitable as traditional public schools. In perhaps the most damning statement in the report, the authors wrote:
“While high-quality, accountable, and accessible charters can contribute to educational opportunity, by themselves, even the best charters are not a substitute for more stable, adequate and equitable investments in public education.”
The report was written by the 12-member NAACP Task Force on Quality Education after a set of intensive hearings or “listening sessions” across the country in cities such as New Haven, Memphis, Orlando, Los Angeles, Detroit, New Orleans and New York. The final product is the result of the input they received during these meetings.
This is only the latest in a growing movement of skepticism toward privatized education of all sorts – especially in relation to its impact on students of color.
Less than a year ago, the NAACP, the oldest civil rights organization in the country, called for a moratorium on any new charter schools. This week’s report takes that caution to the next level.
Despite a truly controversial record, over the past decade, the number of students in charter schools has nearly tripled. In terms of pure numbers, black students only make up more than a quarter of charter school enrollment. However, that’s a disproportionately high number since they make up only 15 percent of total public school enrollment. To put it another way, one in eight black students in the United States today attends a charter school.
The NAACP isn’t the only civil rights organization critical of charter schools. Groups such as the Journey for Justice Alliance, a coalition of grassroots community, youth, and parent-led organizations, and the Movement for Black Lives, a conglomeration of the nation’s youngest national civil rights organizations, have also expressed concern over the uses and abuses of students of color in charter schools.
However, this week’s report wasn’t focused solely on privatization. It also addressed the central issue at traditional public schools – funding disparities.
The report identifies severe inequalities between rich vs. poor communities as the cause of so-called failing schools. The report argues that “to solve the quality education problems that are at the root of many of the issues, school finance reform is essential to ensure that resources are allocated according to student needs.”
Closing the achievement gap requires specific investment in low-performing schools, not punitive measures. There should be more federal, state, and local policies to attract and retain fully qualified educators, improve instructional quality, and provide wraparound services for young people.
The report suggests states model their funding formulas on those of Massachusetts and California and that the federal government should fully enforce the funding-equity provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
It would be difficult to find more rational and reasonable solutions to the education problems in today’s schools.
But pay attention to the response it’s getting.
Corporate reformers are running scared with their hair on fire as someone finally has the guts to point out that the emperor is walking around stark naked!