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.”

The AmNews interviewed Harlem Success Academy (HSA) CEO Eva Moskowitz, where she was very defensive, asked the reporter to turn off their recorder, asking if this was going to be “a gotcha interview.” One of the things Moskowitz, who is white and previously represented the Upper East Side in the New York City Council, is being accused of is pitting Black parents against the NAACP. When asked about this issue, Moskowitz said that she is “insulted” by that accusation, and while she admits that she has pushed parents to aggressively advocate and protest, she claims the rally was their decision to undertake, not hers.

“Parents work hard to find schools for their parents,” she said. “We have a dual mission of advocacy and civic engagement, and we talk to parents and tell them to stand up for their rights.”

Perkins said that Blacks have fought for equal education for decades, and that the inequality in co-located charter schools is a new battle worth fighting.

“Co-location is a form of segregation,” Perkins said. “When you put a wall between one kid and another kid, and they are from the same neighborhood and one kid has superior facilities and the other kid has inferior facilities, that’s second-class treatment.”

Moskowitz said that it’s her priority to run great schools. All HSA schools are co-located in public schools. Moskowitz said that zoned schools get thousands of dollars more than charter schools, and charter school student occupy less physical space than a zoned child does.

“It’s kids in high performing charter schools who are being discriminated against,” she said. “I don’t see anyone saying, ‘Oh my God, those poor kids.’ What about the time my kids have to eat lunch? At HSA 2, the only time the principal would give us for 5-year-olds was 1:30 p.m.”

Moskowitz added that in her schools, students don’t get much library time because books are already in classrooms, which she admits was her choice.

Moskowitz said that if the NAACP and the UFT are successful with their lawsuit, close to 7,000 current Harlem Success Academy students could be affected, and many more students who are slated to be admitted under the expansion plans of her education operation would not be able to attend her charter schools.