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Black America And The Charter School Debate Explained

Black America And The Charter School Debate Explained

Black America
In this Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018 photo, students participate in a pre-kindergarten class at Alice M. Harte Charter School in New Orleans. Charter schools, which are publicly funded and privately operated, are often located in urban areas with large back populations, intended as alternatives to struggling city schools. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

There’s an educational debate raging in Black America. The subject: charter schools. The question: Are they helpful or harmful to Black youth? Black leaders, educators, politicians, parents and stakeholders from all over the country have been weighing in. And it doesn’t seem like there’s a consensus in sight.

Proponents of charter schools say they offer low-income families better options for Black children, many whom perform poorly in traditional public schools. They cite research that shows well-run charters make up 15 percent of all schools, but 60 percent of well performing schools.

“The people who are most often exercising their right to choose are people of color, most specifically poor people.  … The traditional public school system has failed us miserably and continues to do so. If it were being successful, then there would be no such thing as a charter school today,” said Dr. Steve Perry in an interview with Hot 97 as well as during a discussion moderated by Roland Martin at Howard University.

“In many cases some of the highest performing schools in the United States of America are schools with largely minority students,” Perry said.


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In his op-ed in The Hill, Chris Stewart echoes Perry’s sentiment. He rails against a California bill that would prevent the opening of new charter schools and close down existing ones. He calls it an “educational assault on people of color” because charter schools prove “Black and brown students can compete.”

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Opponents of charter schools say if left unchecked they will lead to unregulated sub-standard schools, promote re-segregation, strip traditional public schools of vital funding and leave students unable to attend charter schools behind.

Rudolph “Rudy” Crew is one of them. The president of Medgar Evers College is a lifelong educator that has served as chancellor of New York City’s Board of Education and superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

“There has been a subtle and maybe not so subtle intent to eviscerate public education in this country,” Crew said. He decried the infighting over funding that’s happening between charter and traditional schools, noting it is at the expense of Black youth.

Cornell Brooks, former president of the NAACP, is on Crew’s side. He told the New York Times not all charter schools are high performers.

“This is very much a mixed bag … This whole notion that charter schools are uniformly excellent, and therefore that people don’t even get to raise the question, is simply not the case,” Brooks said.

One thing Black America can agree on is it wants quality schools and quality education for all its kids. The roadmap on how that is best accomplished is murky at best. To choose or not to choose. That is the question.