Tuesday, August 16, 2016

NAACP and Black Lives Matter Call for Moratorium on Charter Schools, But Is the "Gig" Really Up?

At its recent national convention, the NAACP passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on charter schools.  At roughly the same time, Black Lives Matter issued its policy agenda for the nation, which also included a moratorium on charter schools.  The NAACP offered this justification for its position:

  • “Charter schools have contributed to the increased segregation rather than diverse integration of our public school system.”
  •  “Weak oversight of charter schools puts students and communities at risk of harm, public funds at risk of being wasted, and further erodes local control of public education.”
  • " [R]esearchers have warned that charter school expansions in low-income communities mirror predatory lending practices that led to the sub-prime mortgage disaster, putting schools and communities impacted by these practices at great risk of loss and harm…”

This turn of events is worth special note because the African American community's initial support for charters was a driving force for their adoption.  Without state level support and the local demand of African American communities, I would imagine that charter school expansion and enrollment would be only a fraction of its current levels.  But now that we have so many charters, I wonder if these new positions really have the capacity to reverse the tide.  

Those who profit the most from charters already have the legislation they want now.  They man not need really need broad based political support in state houses anymore.  They only need "takers" at the local level to enroll in their schools.  And no matter what national groups state as their position, so long as states continue to underfund and undermine quality public schools in local minority communities, there will always be takers on the chance to enroll in a charter school.  In fact, there choice to enroll in charters can still be rational, even if the state and local policy supporting charters is irrational.  For individual families trapped in bad situations, it can still be rational to make the choice to try something different.  In other words, the expansion of charter schools has created a structural problem that will be difficult to exit.

The other sad reality is that honest and transparent dialogue around charters could have unearthed the problems that the NAACP cites long ago.  As I detail here, charter schools are neither inherently good or bad.  Rather, they take on the structure--or lack thereof--that the state imposes.  Unfortunately, states never instituted the type of structures necessary to ensure that charters serve the overall public good.  As a result, a system has developed that in many, but not all, instances serves individual and/or private interests that are inconsistent with public education itself.

As a side note, kudos to Preston Green, whose article suggesting a pending charter school market bubble, seems to be the anchor for the NAACP's third bullet point. If this bubble does pop, anything becomes possible moving forward.


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