NAACP defends position on charter schools
CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 6/14/2011, 1:41 p.m.
Hazel Dukes and the NAACP are setting the record straight about their position on charter schools.
Dukes says that placing charter schools in existing public schools is a form of segregation, and stands by a lawsuit that the venerable, more-than-100-year-old civil rights organization is filing with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) against the Department of Education.
At a press conference last Friday in front of the Harlem Success Academy's offices on 125th Street and Lenox Avenue, Dukes was joined by parents, elected officials, union members and dozens of NAACP members from across the city. Assemblyman Keith Wright, State Sen. Bill Perkins and City Council Members Robert Jackson and Inez Dickens were among some of the elected officials at the press conference, along with UFT President Michael Mulgrew.
"We are here today to let the community know about the truth of the NAACP," said Dukes. "We didn't come to fight charters. We came today to fight for quality education for all children regardless of race, creed or color."
The NAACP's national office is also behind Dukes. General Counsel for the NAACP Kim Keenan said that co-locating charter schools breaks New York State law. While advocates of charter schools say they were started in an effort to improve education in the inner city, the practical reality has been the unequal treatment of students, which the NAACP and other critics see as the real violation in terms of policy implementation.
"We are fighting for children. Their education should not be based on a lottery. We stand with Hazel Dukes; we stand with New York. This is a very important issue. All we are asking New York to do is follow the law," she said.
The press conference stems from a meeting last week where several charter school parents and supporters went to Dukes' offices demanding to know why the NAACP joined the lawsuit against the DOE.
Close to 2,500 charter school parents attended a rally last week at the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building to blast the NAACP. Many of these parents fear that their children's charter schools will close if the lawsuit is won.
The NAACP made several assertions about charter schools currently co-located in district schools at the press conference, such as district school students getting less access to resources than charter schools, such as libraries, computer labs and gyms. Students in co-located schools are even reportedly forced to use separate bathrooms in some circumstances.
Dukes added that while the NAACP is not trying to close charter schools, they are joining the effort to prevent the closing of public schools and charters from being co-located within public schools. The NAACP wants to bring charter school parents and district school parents together to discuss the issue.
"We come to tell the truth against the distortions," Dukes said. "We come to ask charter school parents to join hands with public school parents to see that public school children have the same quality of education that the so-called charter schools have."