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Black School Choice Group Pushes Back on NAACP Charter School Moratorium

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An African-American pro-charter advocacy group is appealing to leaders of the NAACP to reject a recent resolution from members of the venerable civil rights organization that calls for a moratorium on expanding charter schools.

Citing increased segregation and high rates of exclusionary discipline among other issues, members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People voted at the organization's national conference late last month to approve a resolution calling for a ban on new charter schools. The civil rights organization has long held a skeptical view of charters, but this resolution may amount to its strongest opposition to date. 

Soon after, Black Lives Matter activists joined a coalition of several civil rights and advocacy groups in releasing an education agenda that also calls for a ban on charters, among other initiatives.

Organized under the Movement for Black Lives, the agenda also targets some of the most powerful philanthropic backers of the charter school sector—the Walton Family Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—for bankrolling what it calls "an international education privatization agenda".

(All three foundations help support coverage in Education Week. The newspaper retains sole editorial control over its content.)

African-American supporters of charter schools have since been pushing back against the NAACP's resolution (which has yet to be approved by the group's leadership).

Jacqueline Cooper, the president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, or BAEO, said in a statement that they urge the NAACP's national board to reject the resolution at their next meeting. 

"The fact that the NAACP wants a national moratorium on charter schools, many of which offer a high-quality education to low-income and working-class Black children, is inexplicable," she said. "The resolution is ill-conceived and based on lies and distortions about the work of charter schools."

After shedding two of its four state chapters, BAEO is currently undergoing a reorganization—the details of which will be decided through an innovation competiton to reinvent the organization.

While acknowledging that some of the issues the NAACP raised over charter school quality and oversight are true, Shavar Jeffries, the president of Democrats for Education Reform said in a statement that it's counterproductive to paint all charter schools with the same brush.

"We should be fixing what's broken and expanding what works, not pre-empting the choices of parents of color about the best schools appropriate for meeting the particular needs of their children," he said.

The announcements—and reaction to them—highlight some of the fissures among two important groups to the charter school sector: African-Americans and Democrats.

How Racially Segregated Are Charter Schools?  

It is true that a very visible segment of the charter school sector, propelled by philanthropic organizations such as the Walton and Broad foundations, is focused on setting up shop in low-income, urban areas with the aim of serving the black and Latino students who live in those communities.

Nationally, black students make up 28 percent of charter school enrollment, compared to 15 percent of non-charter enrollment, while white students make up 35 percent of total charter school enrollment and 50 percent of the public, non-charter sector. Those numbers come from a recent Education Week Research Center analysis of federal data from the 2012-13 school year.

The gap in enrollment share is smaller for Hispanic students than for their black and white peers. Hispanic students account for 29 and 25 percent of charter and non-charter enrollment, respectively.

But the racial makeup of charter schools varies greatly from state to state (to see a racial breakdown of charter school enrollment in your state, click here).

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