By guest writer Julian Vasquez Heilig
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The NAACP, one of the nation’s most prominent civil rights groups, released a major report on charter schools today.
“Quality Education for All: One School at a Time” presents a set of transparency and accountability recommendations about charter schools based on feedback received in public hearings in cities across the United States.
The report, which calls for greatly enhancing the ability of local communities to approve or reject charter schools and getting for-profit providers out of the game, represents the culmination of several years of efforts by the group to develop standards for charter schools—typically privately operated outfits that receive public money.
During the past decade, the number of students in charter schools has nearly tripled, with approximately 3.1 million enrolled in 2016-17. In fact, one in eight black students in the United States now attends a charter school.
The NAACP previously decried the lack of transparency and accountability for charter schools by passing three resolutions at its national conventions.
In 2010, the group’s convention delegates and national board supported a resolution saying state charter schools create “separate and unequal conditions.” In 2014, a NAACP national resolution connected school choice with the private control of public education.
Then, in 2016, a resolution voted on by more than 2,000 NAACP members from across the United States garnered national attention because it called for a charter moratorium until these schools “are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools.”
Afterward, the NAACP created a task force on charter schools, whose charge was later expanded to examine quality education for students of color. The task force’s mission was to recommend “actions needed to improve the quality of education for all children of color being educated with public funds and to ensure the sustainability of an effective public education system for all children.”
That process led to the report released today. It acknowledges the severe inequities that still plague the funding of schools in wealthy versus poor communities. It argues that “to solve the quality education problems that are at the root of many of the issues, school finance reform is essential to ensure that resources are allocated according to student needs.”
The report also calls for specific investments in low-performing schools to close the achievement gaps for poor students versus their wealthier peers. It backs federal, state, and local policies to attract and retain fully qualified educators, improve instructional quality, and provide wraparound services for young people.
Importantly, the report goes further than the 2016 resolution in calling for a permanent and rigorous local role in authorizing and renewing charter schools. It would “empower those districts to reject applications that do not meet standards, and establish policies for serious and consistent oversight.”
The report also goes beyond the moratorium by proposing the elimination of for-profit charter schools. It states that “no federal, state, or local taxpayer dollars should be used to fund for-profit charter schools, nor should public funding be sent from nonprofit charters to for-profit charter management companies.”
The NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights group and a vanguard of quality education since 1909, is not alone in taking a more critical posture towards charter schools. Other civil rights organizations such as the Journey for Justice Alliance, an alliance of grassroots community, youth, and parent-led organizations, and the Movement for Black Lives, a conglomeration of the nation’s youngest national civil rights organizations, have also led conversations about rethinking the education of students of color in charter schools.
This article is from The Progressive.
Julian Vasquez Heilig is an award-winning researcher and teacher. He is currently a Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and the Director of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership at California State University Sacramento. He blogs at Cloaking Inequity, consistently rated one of the top 50 education websites in the world by Teach100. Follow him on Twitter @ProfessorJVH.