A recent resolution by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People against charter schools has drawn sharp criticism from top African American and charter school leaders who say the organization that is supposed to advance and protect the education of colored students may have just set them back decades instead.
“It’s been brewing all summer long,” said former Colorado Speaker of the House and attorney Terrance Carroll. “There was a lot of push back. I wasn’t surprised by the resolution, but I was surprised at the vehemence of it.”
Carroll has long been an advocate for school choice and charter schools in Colorado and across the country. He represented House District 7 from 2003 to 2011, during part of which he was Speaker of the House. He was term-limited out of office.
Carroll said the Oct. 15, NAACP announcement calling for a moratorium on charter school expansion until governance and practices of the schools could be strengthened was based on long-running criticisms that have never been proven.
“It’s a straw man argument,” Carroll said. “The reality is they educate a large number of African American and Latino students and are seen by parents as being the only viable alternative to making sure their children get a well-rounded education.”
He pointed at the success of the Denver School of Science and Technology as an example.
“It’s the highest performing high school in state with a large “free reduced” population and a large population from an ethnic minority background,” Carroll said. “There is no segregation, just a school where they get highly educated. DSST alone undercuts the argument (charter schools) are segregated and don’t want certain types of students.”
Charter schools – whether non-profit or operated by for-profit companies – by definition are public schools that are held to all the same federal and state regulations. They receive public funding and cannot charge tuition or use placement tests for enrollment.
In its press release, the NAACP outlined exactly what it believed needed to be fixed but didn’t offer solutions.
The resolution said the moratorium should remain in place until:
- Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools
- Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system
- Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate
- Charter schools cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.
Those conditions frustrated Carroll.
“It’s troublesome because they are not engaged in a conversation about how do we fix them,” Carroll said. “And then they pinpoint where they would make changes. What is most disappointing is the NAACP has a history of fighting for a quality education for African Americans, and they adopt this but provide no plan, no alternative when, still, across broad parts of our country, (minorities) are not being granted the quality education that other students may have.”
Nora Flood, president of the Colorado League of Charter Schools, said many of the NAACPs perspectives really don’t apply in Colorado, but was still disappointed with the resolution. The league created a counterpoint to the NAACPs charges.
“Our charter schools serve a higher percentage of minority kids, and the charter schools are serving them very, very well,” she said. “But we think it’s unfortunate because it’s not applicable to our experiences with charter schools here in Colorado.”
Carroll agreed there is disparity among charter school legislation across the county. He pointed to Colorado as the model state.
According to the Colorado League of Charter Schools during the 2015-16 school year, 46.9 percent of Colorado charter school students were minorities compared to 45.7 percent in traditional public schools, and 35.7 percent were eligible for free or reduced lunches compared to 42.7 percent in the traditional schools. Other facts about charter schools in Colorado include:
- They do not charge tuition
- They cannot discriminate
- They cannot use test-in requirements
- There are more than 225 charter schools serving more than 108,000 students
- Students must take state assessments
- Schools are subject to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act
- Six of the top 10 high schools in ACT scores were charter schools
- Colorado School Grades reports that six of the top 10 middle schools are charter schools
- Colorado School Grades reports that seven of the top 10 high schools are charter schools
- US News & World Report said seven of the top 10 high schools are charter schools
The NAACP said its beliefs were not fueled by ideological opposition to charter schools, rather it came from NAACP supporters inside the education community and that the resolution strengthened its support of public schools.
“Our NAACP members, who as citizen advocates, not professional lobbyists, are those who attend school board meetings, engage with state legislatures and support both parents and teachers,” Cornell William Brooks, President and CEO of the NAACP, said in the release.
Carroll said that simply was not true.
“It was pressure from outside, and the fact is the NAACP is believing the hype and not digging deep into the issue on its own,” Carroll said. “They’re reading propaganda from the anti-charter folks. It doesn’t do anything but show the NAACP is out of step with the rest of African Americans in this country who want a good quality education for their students and support charter schools.”