By Lance Izumi
While a powerful front of liberal lawmakers and groups push for a moratorium on the creation of new charter schools in California, individual chapters of the NAACP have broken ranks to support charters that are improving the education for thousands of African-American children.
To end teacher strikes in Los Angeles and Oakland, local school boards caved to teacher-union demands and passed resolutions urging Sacramento lawmakers to stop new charter schools from being started.
Assembly Bill 1506, authored by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, a Democrat from Sacramento, places a cap on the expansion of charter schools, which are publicly funded schools independent of school districts and with greater flexibility to innovate.
But while the national NAACP has come out in support of a charter-school moratorium, there is dissent in the ranks.
The three chapters represent areas with high populations of African-American children, and chapter leaders such as Christina Laster, education chair of the Riverside NAACP,hopes “the national board will do their research and investigate the facts in order to look at this again from the perspective of what is really going on with the African-American students, locally, statewide and nationally.”
The San Diego NAACP’s anti-moratorium resolution cited the achievement gap between African-American students and other students in California.
The resolution notes that in the 10 school districts in California with the highest enrollment of African-American students, “these school districts have an average African-American achievement gap of 14.5 percent in [English language arts] and 15.2 percent in Math when compared to the performance of all students.”
In contrast, the resolution points out, “African-American students enrolled in public charter schools achieve academic outcomes exceeding their peers in district-run schools.”
The research evidence supports the San Diego NAACP.
A 2015 Stanford University study, which examined 41 urban regions in America, found that low-income African-American students in urban charter schools had higher achievement in math and reading than their peers in traditional public schools.
The Stanford researchers found, “Black students in poverty [in charter schools] receive the equivalent of 59 days of additional learning in math and 44 days of additional learning in reading compared to their peers in [traditional public schools].”
Further, the study found that black students not in poverty gained the equivalent of 43 additional days of math learning and 29 additional days of reading learning in urban charterschools compared with similar students in traditional public schools.
The San Diego NAACP observes that eight of the 10 high-performing California public schools with majority African-American enrollment are charter schools.
Currently, California charter schools enroll close to 50,000 African-American students and there are many more who would like to attend charters, but there are often not enough seats for them.
Yet, instead of responding to this clear demand from African-American parents and their children, the California NAACP’s education chair, Sacramento State professor Julian Vasquez Heilig, bizarrely accused members of the dissenting chapters of being paid off by the California Charter School Association.
“I have never received one penny from CCSA. That’s insane,” retorted Laster.
People like Heilig, observed Laster, assume “that all parents need some kind of direction from an outside stakeholder to tell them what’s best for their children,” which misses the point that parents “are able to make their own decision.”
The authors of the Stanford study concluded that the ability of urban charter schools to improve the achievement of African Americans and other disadvantaged groups “clearly refute the idea that some groups cannot achieve high levels of academic success” and these students “need only be given the opportunity.”
The attempt of lawmakers to close off this opportunity would be an academic and social catastrophe for California, and especially its African-American community, which is why local NAACP leaders are siding with their children and not with the special-interest agenda of their state and national organizations.
Lance Izumi is senior director of the Center for Education at the Pacific Research Institute and author of Choosing Diversity: How Charter Schools Promote Diverse Learning Models and Meet the Diverse Needs of Parents and Their Children.
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