African-American support of charter schools

By Paul Dauphin

The recent opposition to public charter schools by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has sparked a national discussion on the African-American community’s support of charter schools and school choice options. At its national convention in July, the organization approved a resolution calling for a moratorium on the expansion of privately managed charters schools.

The NAACP’s proposed moratorium received immediate pushback from education leaders and advocacy groups. The Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools recently launched a campaign to tell the story of why more than 700,000 African-American families have chosen charter schools.

The ChartersWork campaign features a letter from more than 160 African-American education and community leaders urging the NAACP to reconsider and learn more about how charter schools are helping Black families.

“A blanket moratorium on charter schools would limit Black students’ access to some of the best schools in America and deny Black parents the opportunity to make decisions about what’s best for their children. Instead of enforcing a moratorium, let’s work together to improve low-achieving public schools and expand those that are performing well.”

One of the letter’s signers was Cheryl Brown Henderson, daughter of Oliver Brown, plaintiff in Brown v. Board of Education and founding president and CEO of the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research.

“Over 60 years ago my father joined with numerous parents to stand with the NAACP and fight for all African-American students stuck in a separate, broken education system. Brown v. Board of Education created better public education options for African-American students, and made it the law of the land that neither skin color, socioeconomic status, nor geography should determine the quality of education a child receives,” said Brown Henderson.

There is compelling evidence of the positive impact of charter schools on African-American students. Research by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes found across 41 regions, urban charter schools on average achieve significantly greater student success in both math and reading.

There are now more than 6,600 charter schools across the nation, educating nearly three million children. African-American students account for 17 percent of charter school enrollment nationally.

Recent polling shows increasing acceptance of charter schools and school choice options by African-Americans.

  • The American Federation for Children National School Choice survey (Jan. 2016) showed 76 percent of African-Americans support school choice.
  • BAEO poll (Aug. 2015) showed the majority of African-American voters surveyed support charter schools – Tennessee 67%, Louisiana 65%, New Jersey 65%, Alabama 54%.
  • Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina poll of African-Americans (June 2016) found 56% favor public charter schools and 59% favor school choice.

Parents across the country are demanding more charter schools. This week, more than 25,000 parents, students, educators and advocates attended a rally in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park calling for an expansion of the city’s charter schools.

Speaking at the rally was actor and hip-hip artist Common, who said, “I’m here to tell you that you participating and being a part of charter school success stories is your path to possibility.”

Video: Brooklyn’s Prospect Park charter school rally https://youtu.be/0v1WDti5KvM