NAACP New York State Conference President Hazel Dukes said that charter school supporters are looking for a fight and that the NAACP will not back down in its fight against inequalities in the public schools system when it comes to the placement of charter schools.
On Wednesday morning, several charter school parents and their supporters went to NAACP headquarters in Manhattan to meet with Dukes and demand that the NAACP withdraw from a lawsuit that threatens to prevent the closure and co-location of 18 charter schools in public school buildings. The civil rights organization has joined with the United Federation of Teachers and several other groups in the suit.
The meeting with Dukes at her office came as a result of a rally that took place last Thursday. Thousands of charter school supporters gathered at the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building that day to protest the NAACP’s involvement in the lawsuit filed by the teacher’s union.
The rally was led by Eva Moskowitz and the New York City Charter School Center. Supporters of the NAACP said Moskowitz “demanded” that every one of her charter school students and their parents attend the rally, delaying the start of classes so the students could attend.
Parents at the rally, most of whom were Black, want the NAACP to withdraw from the lawsuit that they say threatens to close several existing charter schools and prevent others from enrolling new children.
They said the NAACP is seeking to deny Black students the opportunity to go to “better schools,” and that the over 100-year-old civil rights organization’s involvement in the suit conflicts with its over-all mission.
The NYPD has reported that between 2,500 and 3,000 people showed up to Thursday’s rally. A letter signed by more than 2,000 parents was sent to Dukes on Thursday as well.
“I can see their white slave masters are trying to get them to fight against this 102-year-old national civil rights organization,” Dukes told the AmNews. “What I told the parents was that I thanked them for coming and that I have [a record of] over three decades of fighting injustices.
There are 1 million children in New York City public schools when you have only4 percent receiving a quality education, what am I supposed to do? Turn my head to the 96 percent?”
Dukes said that what’s going on in the New York City school system is similar to that which she fought during the Brown v. Board of Education case — except this time the battle is Black versus Black. She added that the concept of placing charter schools in existing public schools is” separate and unequal.”
She said, “We want certified and qualified teachers to teach our children. If there is a charter school in a public school, they don’t have the same resources; it is unequal and that cannot happen on my watch. It’s not Black versus white, but we are dealing with two classes of children.”
After Wednesday’s bum rush into Dukes’ office, charter school parents say that 7,000 students will have to find another school to go to this fall if the lawsuit is successful.
“We explained to Dr. Dukes that, by suing, she was attempting to take away our access to high quality public school options for our children, and how that goes against everything the NAACP stands for,” said parent Ny Whitaker, who attended the meeting. “We’re extremely disappointed that the NAACP is trying to teach the city’s education department a lesson on the backs of 7,000 children.”
Kathleen Kernzian, another parent, said it’s the NAACP that is causing the division.
“It mystifies me that the NAACP would continue to stand in the way of a better future for minority children,” she said. “We hope the parents that the NAACP has reached out to will reject this attempt to divide us.”
Dukes told the AmNews she plans to keep the NAACP in the lawsuit and has no plans to back down.
“The parents of the charter school children can be concerned about their children, but I have to be concerned about all children,” she said.” Not just children who are lucky enough to get in to a lottery.”