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Grandmother Turned Education Activist Battles NAACP Over Charter Schools

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By Lisa Stark

When Sarah Carpenter walked into one of the first charter schools in Memphis, she saw something that astonished her.

The mother of four and grandmother of 13 heard school administrators talking about preparing students for college. It was something she'd never experienced growing up in her poor, African-American neighborhood in Memphis, where higher education seemed a pipe dream. That emphasis on college preparedness convinced Carpenter to send her granddaughter to the charter school. that granddaughter has since graduated from college.

In the years since, Carpenter became an activist and now runs Memphis Lift, a parent education advocacy organization funded partly by groups that support charter schools. She's an outspoken woman with a big heart and a big agenda: to help parents in Memphis find the best schools for their children—whether they're charter schools or traditional public schools.

Carpenter has also joined the fight against the NAACP, which wants a moratorium on new charter schools. She led a noisy protest at the NAACP board meeting this fall, arguing that a moratorium on new charters would unnecessarily limit school choice.


To hear the NAACP's president explain why the group is calling for a moratorium on new charter schools, watch this video here.


While Carpenter agrees with the NAACP that charter schools need to be held accountable, she says it's wrongheaded of the civil rights organization to try to stop the growth of "great schools doing great work." 

Carpenter is a force to be reckoned with. She spoke to Education Week about her passion for improving education options for children of color.  Here she is, in her own words.

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