Public education has always been the ladder used by the underprivileged to improve their situation. It has been the great equalizer. With true equity of opportunity, all students have the chance of becoming whatever their dreams desire. But true equality is something our people have been fighting for for generations. What is equal? Equal time, equal resources, equal space, equal classes, equal amenities such as books and computers-these are all ongoing issues.

From the time the U.S. Supreme Court signed off on what became the tool of racists, the Plessey v. Ferguson decision of the 19th century, to the corrective civil rights action of the 20th century, the Brown v. Board of Education decision, separate was determined to be inherently unequal. But that is what we are setting up with the co-location of charter schools in New York City-the children in the charter schools are the haves and all of the other public school students are the have-nots.

Children are smart; they see that some people are treated differently than others and that some people have more and are lavished upon while others get the bare minimum or less. In some of the cases where regular public schools are sharing buildings and resources with charter schools, they are seeing these circumstances on a day-to-day basis. They may find that other students across the hall have new books, computers, smart boards and the luxury of time-time to spend in the lunchroom, time to spend in the library or the gym, time to be real students. Why should they have to feel like second-class citizens in their own schools?

While some people don’t understand why the NAACP has joined in the fight with the UFT and others over the co-location of charter schools in New York City’s public schools, the explanation is quite simple: The NAACP fights against the idea of separate and unequal. This has been part of the core mission of the venerable civil rights organization for over 100 years, and it is why the NAACP has been on the forefront of helping make positive change in the lives of all Americans, not just our people.

The organization has been on the front lines, fighting for education. The lawsuit that they are taking part in is a suit that compels the city purely to follow state law and make sure real considerations are made before neighborhood schools are closed. The suit goes further go to contend that there is a need to fix the underperforming and low performing schools, rather than just eliminating them in a wholesale manner. And part of that examination process must be a determination of whether the Department of Education and the Bloomberg administration are intentionally starving some schools of much-needed resources, making it impossible for them to succeed.

It should be obvious to policymakers and DOE administrators that we cannot have one classroom with all the bells and whistles while a classroom down the hall has nothing. This fight is not just about charter schools, it is about how our children are being educated on the whole and it is about fundamental fairness. Charter school students make up 4 percent of the children who attend public schools. While we do not want to deny that 4 percent a good quality education, we cannot create a two-tiered system that gives the 4 percent all of their advantages by depriving the other 96 percent.

Our mission should be to provide 100 percent of our students with quality textbooks and resources. All of our students need access to physical education and time in libraries. We need clean, fully functioning schools, not just one floor out of four. We need to create a high quality education system for all of our students-not just some.

This is not anti-charter, it is anti-injustice. The lawsuit that has been filed is not about charter schools-it’s about creating a good education system for all students and making sure that parents have a say in what happens in their children’s schools.

We need good schools and we need them now, but shutting down schools and letting charters take their place is not the answer. We need the DOE to once and for all make a decision, working alongside the parents, the teachers, unions and principals to create a fair and equitable system that works not just for the favored few but for the many.

Let’s make education a joy, a place where students, teachers and principals are happy to go to learn and work every day. We are not just fighting for space-we are fighting for the future of our kids. Let’s make their schools safe, productive and equal. Let’s make education better.