Charter School Advocate Fires Back Against NAACP Report

Jul 31, 2017

The NAACP has published a paper that's heavily critical of charter schools. The civil rights group visited New Haven as part of a national listening tour, hearing from all sides of the charter school debate.

Last year, the NAACP called for a moratorium on new charter schools. They cited concerns with accountability, transparency, high rates of suspensions and expulsions, and discriminatory enrollment practices. They also set up a task force to explore this topic more broadly, traveling to seven cities to talk to parents, advocates, and teachers -- anyone with skin in the game.

They made several recommendations, including the suggestion that charter schools have an open enrollment process and stop accepting or rejecting students based on their educational or behavioral needs.

Janeene Freeman, CEO of the Northeast Charter School Network, which advocates for charter schools in New York and Connecticut, said that seats are in high demand, so schools should be able to choose how they enroll students.

"It's not as if they don't have enough students to fill these seats, but charter schools are trying to work with as many students as they can," Freeman said.

She said she respects the NAACP's long history of supporting people of color, but she's disappointed with their position on charter schools.

"I think what's striking to me," Freeman said, "is that this historic and prominent organization that has, for years, fought for equity for black people, still hasn't made the link for why it's important for black and brown parents to have the right to choose the best schools for their children, and I don't know what could be more equitable than that."

The NAACP report also called for charter schools to be required to hire certified teachers. Freeman said that would make it harder to hire teachers, because the charters wouldn’t have the flexibility to hire who they’d consider the best person for the job.

Scot Esdaile, president of NAACP's Connecticut branch, served on the task force, but was unavailable for comment.