NAACP Turns Its Back On 700,000 African American Students

Parents of charter school students from Memphis protest outside of the NAACP vote in Cincinnati, Ohio | Photo: The Enquirer

In the end, politics triumphed over common sense, decency and justice. And while the outcome was never in doubt, there was still hope that voices such as Janet Griggs from Houston, Texas could persuade one of the most respected and oldest civil rights organizations in our country to live up to its creed of advancing the rights and opportunities of African-Americans everywhere.

Instead, by voting firmly in support of the Democratic Party and the powerful teacher unions that finance Democrats’ campaigns, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) turned its back not only on everything the group purports to advance, but also on the more than 700,000 black students by voting for a partisan resolution calling for a moratorium on charter schools.

The act was as cruel as it was revealing.

For years, the NAACP has done the Democratic Party’s bidding by criticizing charter schools and the expansion of school choice in minority communities, even as independent charter schools provided a lifeline to thousands of mostly poor families. But with the passing of the resolution condemning charter schools, the NAACP has shed any sense of impartiality on the subject. Worse, the 107-year-old organization has lost its ability to speak credibly on social injustice and the need to provide minority communities with better educational opportunities.

This is an unfortunate turn for an organization that has found itself on the right side of history for so long fighting against racism, discrimination and segregation. But in this case, it’s hard to see how history will look kindly on the NAACP.

In fact, the NAACP’s irresponsible decision to call for a moratorium on public charter schools was so brazen that elicited almost universal condemnation from across the ideological spectrum.

From the liberal editorial page of the New York Times:

“For many parents and students, a charter school is the only route to a superior education. In advocating a blanket moratorium on charters, the NAACP would fail to acknowledge what’s happening to children who need and deserve a way out of the broken schools to which they have been relegated.”

To the conservative editorial page of the Wall Street Journal:

“The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has a storied history, but many organizations outlive their moral purpose and it’s now clear this one has. The civil-rights outfit has come down firmly on the side of trapping poor minority children in education failure factories.”

Ultimately however, it is not the voices of the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page that matter. Far more important are those of the 700,000 black families currently enrolled in charter schools — and the many millions more languishing on waiting lists across the United States. What does it say when one of the oldest civil rights organizations in the country is effectively delegitimizing their education?

In a letter to the NAACP, a number of black parents and family members (including Griggs, whose granddaughter is trying to enroll in a high-performing charter school in Houston) wrote:

“The NAACP is an organization to which we are deeply rooted and for which we have tremendous respect. Our grandparents fought with the NAACP for civil rights, and our children benefit from these efforts today…. Our support for charter schools is not abstract, but instead based on our personal experience.”

The letter concluded with a heart-wrenching plea:

“We urge you to hear our voices as parents and vote against this resolution. And if you need more evidence, visit a charter school and see for yourselves how charter schools are serving children of color. Our kids are counting on you.”

The NAACP ignored this plea, voting overwhelmingly against charter school families like Griggs’s and thousands of more.

Besides turning their back on families benefiting from charter schools, the NAACP also rejected years of scholarly research finding considerable improvement in academic scores and college readiness for African-American students enrolled in charter schools. There is no shortage of evidence finding gains for charter school students. One ongoing study that is getting considerable attention from conservatives and progressives is Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education and Outcomes, which found “students enrolled in charter schools in 41 of the nation’s urban regions learned significantly more than their traditional public school counterparts.”

This is among the evidence the NAACP refused to consider when putting its own interests in front of the plight of the working class families it purports to represent.

Still, if there is a silver lining to this injustice, it’s that the NAACP may have strengthened the resolve of public charter school advocates to fight for educational equity. Former Washington D.C. City Councilman Kevin P. Chavous, a Democrat who now heads the school choice advocacy group American Federation for Children, said in a statement:

“We will not rest nor tire in our effort to ensure every American, especially the most disadvantaged, receive access to a quality education of their parents’ choice.”

In a letter to the NAACP, a number of black parents and family members (including Griggs, whose granddaughter is trying to enroll in a high-performing charter school in Houston) wrote:

“The NAACP is an organization to which we are deeply rooted and for which we have tremendous respect. Our grandparents fought with the NAACP for civil rights, and our children benefit from these efforts today…. Our support for charter schools is not abstract, but instead based on our personal experience.”

The letter concluded with a heart-wrenching plea:

“We urge you to hear our voices as parents and vote against this resolution. And if you need more evidence, visit a charter school and see for yourselves how charter schools are serving children of color. Our kids are counting on you.”

The NAACP ignored this plea, voting overwhelmingly against charter school families like Griggs’s and thousands of more.

Besides turning their back on families benefiting from charter schools, the NAACP also rejected years of scholarly research finding considerable improvement in academic scores and college readiness for African-American students enrolled in charter schools. There is no shortage of evidence finding gains for charter school students. One ongoing study that is getting considerable attention from conservatives and progressives is Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education and Outcomes, which found “students enrolled in charter schools in 41 of the nation’s urban regions learned significantly more than their traditional public school counterparts.”

This is among the evidence the NAACP refused to consider when putting its own interests in front of the plight of the working class families it purports to represent.

Still, if there is a silver lining to this injustice, it’s that the NAACP may have strengthened the resolve of public charter school advocates to fight for educational equity. Former Washington D.C. City Councilman Kevin P. Chavous, a Democrat who now heads the school choice advocacy group American Federation for Children, said in a statement:

“We will not rest nor tire in our effort to ensure every American, especially the most disadvantaged, receive access to a quality education of their parents’ choice.”

While Dr. Howard Fuller, a long time civil rights leader tweeted the following, shortly after the NAACP’s ill-conceived resolution passed:

Israel Ortega is a Senior Writer for Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter:@IzzyOrtega.

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