You would think that a venerable civil rights organization would want the young people it supposedly represents to get the best educations possible. You would think so.
But you might be wrong: the NAACP's national board is deliberating a resolution calling for a moratorium on the creation of charter schools, which many African American parents see as the best way for their children to enjoy the educational advantages that are often unavailable in the nation's failing public schools.
A Wall Street Journal editorial explains:
The resolution claims that privately operated charters are “targeting low-income areas and communities of color,” thereby putting traditional public schools “at great risk of loss and harm.” Further, the NAACP complains that public funding of charters is creating “shortages of resources and space” at traditional schools.
It’s true that charters are attracting students from traditional schools, especially in big cities. Nearly one in four public school students in Los Angeles now attends a charter, up from about 9% in 2008. In the last seven years New York’s charter-school population has quintupled to more than 100,000 students.
Charters are proliferating because minority parents are voting with their feet. About two-thirds of black voters in Louisiana, New Jersey and Tennessee support charters and vouchers, according to a 2015 survey by the Black Alliance for Educational Options. An Education Next poll last month found that blacks backed charters by nearly two-to-one. Two thirds of blacks also favored tax-credit scholarship programs such as Florida’s, which the NAACP has sued to block. Meantime, only 8% of blacks gave their local schools an A grade. Twice as many Republicans did.
These views aren’t surprising since student learning at charters far exceeds that at traditional public schools. Black and Hispanic students who attend charters in New York City scored nearly three quarters higher than their counterparts at district-run schools, according to a recent analysis by Families for Excellent Schools.
A study last year by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that low-income black students attending urban charters gained 59 days in math and 44 days in reading over counterparts in traditional school. Advancement among black students at charters in Boston was off the charts: 200 days in math and 100 days in reading.
So why would the NAACP oppose charter schools. The editorial boils down the opposition to two key factors: money and ideology. The NAACP received $400,000 from the two largest teacher unions between 2011 and 2015. The NAACP is also dominated by what the editorial calls "gentry progressives," who are loyal to the Democratic Party, which receives even more significant support from the teacher unions, and who–oh, yes–can afford private schools for their children.
If the NAACP board votes to curtail charter schools, the editorial suggests that it may be time to take the word "advancement" out of its name. Charter schools advance kids, while teacher unions advance entrenched interests–at the expense of minority kids.