It’s back to school. It’s also back to the charter school debate.
In an AlterNet piece, Steven Rosenfeld outlined “10 Reasons Why the NAACP Is Absolutely Right About a National Moratorium on Charter Schools.” I had planned to write a point-by-point rebuttal, but Rosenfeld’s diatribe is more opinion than fact. I remembered the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan often said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”
Rosenfeld is entitled to his opinion so I’ll share a few facts. In Philadelphia, nearly one-third of students attend charter schools. There are 83 charter schools, two of which -- MaST Community Charter School and String Theory Charter School -- have a combined waiting list of more than 10,000 students.
The Washington Post recently editorialized:
WHEN SCHOOLS get it right, whether they’re traditional public schools or public charter schools, let’s figure out what’s working and share it with schools across America.” Hillary Clinton was booed at the National Education Association’s summer convention for that self-evidently sensible proposition. The reaction speaks volumes about labor’s uniformed and self-interested opposition to charter schools and contempt for what’s best for children. Now the union has been joined by a couple of organizations that purport to be champions of opportunity.
In separate conventions over recent weeks, the NAACP, the nation’s oldest black civil rights organization, and the Movement for Black Lives, a network of Black Lives Matter organizers, passed resolutions criticizing charter schools and calling for a moratorium on their growth. Charters were faulted by the groups for supposedly draining money from traditional public schools and allegedly fueling segregation. The NAACP measure, which still must be ratified by the board before becoming official, went so far as to liken the expansion of charters to “predatory lending practices” that put low-income communities at risk.
No doubt that will come as a surprise to the millions of parents who have seen their children well-served by charters and to the additional million more who are on charter school waiting lists for their sons and daughters. “You’ve got thousands and thousands of poor black parents whose children are so much better off because these schools exist,” Howard Fuller of the Black Alliance for Educational Options told the New York Times.
This information likely comes as a surprise to opponents of charter schools. But their minds are made up; don’t confuse them with the facts. Indeed, Rosenfeld dismissed the WaPo editorial saying “it is deeply wrong to belittle the issues that affected communities raise—which is the basis for the NAACP’s draft resolution.”
The basis for African American parents’ support of charter schools is the fierce urgency of now. As income has become a proxy for race, they reject the notion that their zip code is destiny. Black parents don’t want their children trapped in failing traditional public schools because they live in the “affected communities.”
Access to charter schools empowers low-income and working-class parents to exercise their right to choose the best educational environment for their children. Fact is, black students make up 27 percent of charter school enrollment nationwide.
The bottom line for Rosenfeld is, well, the bottom line. In his worldview, charter schools “divert” money from traditional public schools. By contrast, supporters believe the money should follow the student. For them the bottom line is: Are students learning the three Rs – reading, writing and arithmetic?
Unfortunately for Rosenfeld and the NAACP, facts are stubborn things.