Thursday, September 22, 2016

Letter With 160 Signers Opposes NAACP's Proposed Moratorium on Charter Schools

Posted By on Thu, Sep 22, 2016 at 5:14 PM

Six weeks ago, I wrote a post about a resolution from the NAACP calling for a moratorium on new charter schools. It's important to note, the resolution calls for a moratorium on opening new schools, not a shuttering of current schools, though one of its purposes is to take a closer look at those already operating in black communities, some of which, the resolution says, are the educational equivalent of subprime mortgages. The resolution is pending. It should be voted on sometime this year. 

Now there's a response, a letter with 160 signers, which begins, "Dear Esteemed NAACP Board Members," and sings the praises of charter schools, especially those in black neighborhoods. The letter asks that members of the NAACP board meet with representatives of the signers to discuss the resolution and, they hope, decide to vote it down.

The effort is spearheaded by two organizations, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the Black Alliance for Educational Options. Both groups are heavily funded by some of the deepest pockets in the privatization/"education reform" movement. In 2014 alone, the Walton Foundation, created by the Walmart fortune, gave NAPCS $1 million and BAEO $3.5 million. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave NAPCS $3 million in 2014. Its last contribution to BAEO was $250,000 in 2012. NAPCS also gets funding from at least ten other funds, including the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation and The Broad Education Foundation. I couldn't find any information on other BAEO funders.

Clearly, these aren't small, community-based grassroots organizations. They're significant, well funded players in the vast charter/voucher ground game.

What I find interesting about the list of 160 signers of the letter is, the vast majority are connected to charter schools or charter advocacy organizations. Just by looking at where the signers say they work, I found 130 with direct affiliation to charter schools and charter organizations. In some cases, multiple signers come from the same overall organization. Eleven, for example, are from Fortune Schools and seven are from KIPP charter schools.

I can draw two possible conclusions from the fact that such a small proportion of the signers have no connection to the charter school movement. The first possibility is, the letter was thrown together quickly, and a blast was sent out to the two organizations' supporters asking for signers. The second is, charter schools aren't widely supported by black community leaders and politicians. A lack of deep support for charters is, I think, a distinct possibility. Other than a few standout charter schools and chains, charters in black communities aren't wildly successful. Many are on a par with the local district schools, and some are so poorly run, either because of incompetence or because the owners are more concerned with making money than educating children, the children would have been far better off sticking with the school district. And those few "standout" schools often succeed by attrition, getting rid of students who don't do well in the schools' regimented environments, leaving a select group of students who fit comfortably into the school mold and do well on standardized tests.

It'll be interesting to see what comes of this letter. The NAACP is far from a radical organization, and its leadership is more likely to want to build bridges than create friction with other black leaders. On the other hand, the letter is more of a lobbying effort than genuine community outreach, so the NAACP may not take it very seriously.

A GATES/WALTON-EDUCATION-PRIVATIZATION-SUPPORT EXTRA: In 2014, the Walton Foundation spent $202,461,214 (yes, over $200 million) in grants to K-12 education, most of them supporting groups that work to promote charter schools and vouchers. Arizona Charter Schools Association received $650,000. The Arizona School Choice Administration Corporation received $100,000. The Gates Foundation giving is so vast, I couldn't find a number for its total spending on K-12, but a search in its database for the term "charters schools" yielded 20 organizations which received a total of about $46 million in 2014.

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