Editor’s Note: The following op-ed was quoted in an earlier EBONY.com story on the topic of the NAACP and charter schools.
At a time in our history when we proudly witnessed the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, an organization that deserves its rightful place in the museum is taking us backwards.
The NAACP has a long track record being on the right side of history, whether it was the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, Brown v. Board of Education or other critical issues of social and economic justice that we have faced in this country
But the NAACP’s latest decision to call for a moratorium on public charter schools in this country puts the organization squarely on the wrong side of our history.
Rather than hurting us as the NAACP asserts, free public charter schools broaden the options for our many families who otherwise could not afford to send their children to a private school. Public charter schools are preparing Black students across the country to succeed in college and career.
As the former chair of the board and current board member of the minority-led, grass-roots Marion P. Thomas Charter School in Newark, N.J., I have seen first hand how this school has changed the lives of students and families.
Our school ranked as one of the top five in graduation rates in Newark, including magnet schools, with well over 90 percent of our seniors graduating and accepted into a college.
Instead of embracing charter schools for all they have done for young Black students in our country, the NAACP wants to restrict their growth. The NAACP’s position is confounding and infuriating as a moratorium would deny educational opportunities to more of our children, who are dying everyday they are trapped in schools that are failing to properly educate them.
Why isn’t the NAACP concerned that only 7 percent of Black students who graduate from traditional public high schools are college and career-ready? The majority of those who decide to go to college will have to take remedial courses during their freshman year in order to “be ready” for college by their sophomore year.
The NAACP has been conspicuously silent on traditional public schools that have failed our children for generations. Instead of demanding accountability, the NAACP blindly supports teachers’ unions that put their employees ahead of the interests of our children.
If the NAACP can fight so tirelessly for the freedom of being Black in America, then why isn’t the NAACP fighting to ensure that all of our Black children have access to the best education system possible? Why does the NAACP want to stop progress, when it has fought for it for more than 100 years?
I encourage my brothers and sisters on the Board of the NAACP to do their research. I participated in the renewal process for my charter school so I personally know how difficult it is for a charter school to remain open in New Jersey. If public schools had to submit to the same process to remain open, there are many in our communities that wouldn’t make the cut.
The NAACP must understand how public charter schools are filling critical needs in our communities. Not supporting the replication of schools that are doing excellent jobs of educating our children is simply wrong.
By calling for a moratorium on public charter schools, the NAACP is failing to follow it’s own mission “to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.”
Restricting the growth of public charter schools eliminates the educational equality of rights for our communities, for the 700,000 Black children charters currently serve and for the more than one million children who are currently on waiting list for charter schools.
Giving the parents options by giving their children an opportunity to attend a school they could otherwise never afford is what equality looks like.
There are many battles that the NAACP should be fighting on our behalf, from environmental and criminal justice to economic opportunities and health. Advocating for a charter school moratorium isn’t one of them.
Rev. Ronald Slaughter is the Senior Pastor of Saint James A.M.E. Church in Newark, NJ.