On Wednesday the nation’s oldest Civil Rights organization issued its much anticipated report on charter schools.
In an earlier version of this post I erroneously reported that the NAACP continued it’s support for their previous call for a moratorium on charter school expansion. This reflected the story and headline in the Washington Post.
While the NAACP report is highly critical of for-profit charter schools and the inequitable distribution of charters in poor and urban school districts, the report does not repeat the organizations call for a moratorium.
Here is the executive summary of the report:
Charter schools were created with more flexibility because they were expected to innovate and infuse new ideas and creativity into the traditional public school system. However, this aspect of the promise never materialized.
Many traditional inner city public schools are failing the children who attend them, thus causing parents with limited resources to search for a funded, quality educational alternative for their children. Forty-three states and the District of Columbia have different approaches for overseeing charter schools, varying in who can serve as authorizers of charter schools, how they fund charters, and how they govern charter schools.
Charter schools are publicly funded, but they are privately operated under a written contract (or charter) with a state, school district or other authorizers depending on the state. With the expansion of charter schools and their concentration in low-income communities, concerns have been raised within the African American community about the quality, accessibility and accountability of some charters, as well as their broader effects on the funding and management of school districts that serve most students of color.
State charter laws are different and unique to each state. For example, in Tennessee, for-profit charters are not allowed. While in Michigan, for-profit charters are expanding.
Charter schools generally have flexibility from many laws and regulations that govern traditional public schools. There are many types of charter schools. Some charters are closely affiliated with school districts, others operate independently, and many are part of a network of schools that may span many school districts. Some are for-profit, run by education management organizations (or EMO’s), which can be nonprofit or for-profit. For some, charter schools provide the answer to persistently failing traditional public schools in their community.
To others, charter schools drain their community of limited resources and harm their children because many cannot attend the charter schools in their own neighborhood. There were pros and cons on charters versus traditional schools in every hearing.
The Task Force heard testimony that accused charters schools of “cherry-picking” students, counseling out the difficult students, manipulating funds related to average daily attendance (ADA) once students were no longer in attendance, and re-segregating the public school system.
Conversely, charter school advocates criticized the traditional school system for its poor record in educating students. In every hearing, many people agreed that the current education system fails too many children because of the lack of investment in people, policies and programs that support high quality educational opportunities. Consequently, each hearing’s participants emphasized the need to protect students from failing schools and create more high quality schools, regardless of the school’s structure.
A school leader at the Los Angeles hearing captured the sentiment, “we must celebrate success wherever it is happening and we must remain vigilant to guard against abuses of the public trust wherever they occur.
A bad school is our common enemy”. Hearing presenters in Detroit and New York warned that having too many charter schools in some communities, while neighborhood schools are shut down, contribute to a chaotic educational system for many families of color living in low income areas.
In Memphis and New Orleans, local elected school leaders stressed the importance of the state playing a strong role in authorizing, funding and governing charter schools so that ALL students, families and schools receive the necessary resources to educate the community’s children.
Furthermore, 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 in the communities that serve our children.