Civil rights leaders understand that education is the key to escaping the cycle of poverty that’s prevalent in many inner-city neighborhoods. Kids trapped in poorly run, dangerous schools often don’t receive the instruction required to move on to college or a decent job.
Those children need quality options like charter schools, or government vouchers to pay tuition at private schools, if they are going to have a chance to succeed. Most civil rights leaders understand that concept and want to help children seek quality education beyond their geographic school district boundaries.
So why isn’t the NAACP on board?
That organization has joined New York City’s United Federation of Teachers in filing a lawsuit that would prevent the closure of approximately two dozen failing schools, prevent several dozen charter schools from sharing space in public school buildings, and prevent the opening of at least two new charter schools.
In other words, the NAACP is suing to keep a lot of black kids trapped in really bad schools, with no options for escape.
It isn’t just white guys like me who are shocked by the group’s indifference to the plight of its New York City constituency. The New York Daily News published a scathing op-ed co-written by the president of the United Negro College Fund. Michael Lomax wrote in part:
“…But now, a lawsuit filed by the teachers union and the NAACP is threatening to stop progress in its tracks.
“Those organizations - especially the NAACP - ought to be ashamed for fighting to deprive kids and families of better educational options.
“Where education reform has worked, as it has in New York City as demonstrated by student achievement gains, it is because schools have been held accountable for educating children and families have been given choices.
“The lawsuit filed by the United Federation of Teachers and the NAACP would take troubling steps in the exact opposite direction. The suit seeks to block the city from shutting down about two dozen traditional schools whose students are not learning what they need to know to succeed at the next level - and prevent 19 public charter schools from sharing facilities with existing traditional schools. Were the plaintiffs to succeed, these schools would either be unable to enroll new children or could face closure.
Many citizens have also taken exception with the NAACP’s position. An estimated 2,500 kids and parents recently protested outside the organization’s New York office.
We have to believe that the NAACP is buckling to traditional political alliances and financial considerations.
The organization and the nation’s teachers unions have worked closely for years within the Democratic Party. And the unions have a financial stake in preserving failing schools and the jobs they provide to union teachers. Charter and private schools generally have non-union staffs, so they are a threat to the financial well-being of the education labor movement.
Perhaps NAACP officials feel a need to help their old friends in the teachers unions defend their traditional turf, even if that means blocking opportunities for disadvantaged children. Or perhaps the NAACP doesn’t want to risk losing the financial contributions it receives from the unions.
Teachers’ unions have given over $50,000 to the NAACP and its New York branch over the last year, according to financial reports filed by the unions, which can be found here, here and here.
Friday morning, the NAACP struck back by protesting outside the office of the Success Charter Network and its founder, former city councilwoman Eva Moskowitz. She has engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the union and its apologists, trying to bring more charter schools to New York City neighborhoods with the worst schools.
The NAACP’s true colors are showing. Instead of "advancing” people", as the group's name suggests, it’s supporting an education system that is failing students and turning them to lives of crime, dependence and poverty. The NAACP is doing its constituency a disservice by carrying the water for the United Federation of Teachers.