NAACP Calls for Moratorium on Charter Schools
August 17, 2016 – The NAACP unveiled strong new resolutions at its national convention in Cincinnati. One of its loudest was a demand for a nationwide halt on new charter schools.
The NAACP has been opposed to charter schools for two years, but this year organization delegates voted for an outright moratorium on privately managed charter schools, after acknowledging what they consider to be numerous civil violations by charter schools’ privately appointed boards.
“Charter schools have contributed to the increased segregation rather than diverse integration of our public school system,” claims the NAACP’s 2016 resolution, which was voted on and approved in July.
Delegates agreed that charter schools have the ability to pick and choose their students through “disproportionately high use of punitive and exclusionary discipline,” which tosses out underprivileged students who don’t perform as well as affluent youth do on some tests and helps give charter schools an unfair performance edge over public schools in test scores. Delegates also agreed that, unlike public schools – which MUST accept even problem students – charter schools can boost enrollment of high-performing students with more stringent entrance requirements.
Critics often use the tiered charter school system in New Orleans as an example. The University of Minnesota Law School Institute on Race and Poverty issued a 2010 report revealing that in 2009, 87 percent of all white students in New Orleans attended the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) or Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) charter schools, while only 18 percent of African Americans and Latinos attended those same schools. Instead, 75 percent of African-American and Latino students attended the Recovery School District (RSD) schools that same year. Nearly all RSD schools qualified as high-poverty schools, while the OPSB and BESE sectors contained the lowest shares of high-poverty schools.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, LatinoJustice, and the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College argue that the most effective tool of separation that charter schools use is standardized testing. Louisiana education consultant and researcher Raynard Sanders told the MSNAACP in 2013 that he shared that view.
“Standardized tests as a means of measuring student success don’t work well because it is such a narrow measurement process. It’s just a snapshot, really,” said Sanders. “By using that instrument of measurement, you hurt students who don’t do well on it, not because they don’t have the ability, but because they have limited resources in their lives, mostly related to poverty. They don’t do so well on standardized tests.”
Sanders said that he was also familiar with charter schools’ punitive and exclusionary discipline.
“Once the kids are in the school, you may have to commit to 100 hours a year of volunteer time, or pay extra fees, or any number of conditions,” said Sanders. “Let’s say you’ve got a parent working two jobs and you can’t meet those conditions. You end up with a very select group of kids, rather than the kids who are most challenged. The schools are doing the choosing, not the parents.”
Mississippi, which has a decades-long problem with school segregation, now has laws making it easier to open charter schools in the state. Lawmakers passed the Charter Schools Act of 2013, which diverts public money to charter schools through two funding streams: ad valorem tax funds from local school districts and per-pupil funds from the Mississippi Department of Education.
The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a July 11 suit seeking to close the existing charter schools and stop any more from opening. The suit, representing seven Jackson Public Schools parents, argues that charter schools violate the state constitution by forcing cash-strapped school districts to share meager property tax collections with charter schools that they neither supervise nor control.
“Traditional public schools,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “will have fewer teachers, books, and educational resources. These schools will no longer be able to provide Mississippi schoolchildren the education that they are constitutionally entitled to receive.”
The suit explains that the funding provisions of the Charter Schools Act of 2013 cost JPS schoolchildren “more than $1.85 million in state per-pupil funding and ad valorem tax revenue in the 2015-2016 school year alone.” That JPS money could have otherwise funded 42 teacher salaries, 18 new school buses, guidance counselors for 6,870 students, or vocational education programming for 6,672 students.
Currently, two charter schools, Reimagine Prep and Midtown Public Charter School, are operating in Mississippi. Both schools are located within the boundaries of the Jackson Public School District. A third school is slated to open inside the JPS district either this year or next year. The Southern Poverty Law Center argues that JPS could lose up to $4 million during the 2016-2017 school year because of these three charter schools.
The Mississippi NAACP is in accord with the National NAACP’s July statement supporting the suit.
“The landscape of public education has room for new ideas,” state NAACP President Derrick Johnson said. “However, innovation must not come at the expense of our state’s traditional public school system. We must endeavor to improve our public education system, not destroy it.”
Source: MS NAACP State Conference