Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Reject emphasis on charter schools unless safeguards in place

Special to The Times

The NAACP rejects the emphasis on charter schools as an educational vanguard, but if the Legislature should open the door, it must be done with some key safeguards, says the regional education chair of the NAACP.
FOR more than 102 years, the NAACP has advocated for all students to receive a quality public education — while fighting against inequities that are the product of a broader spectrum of inequalities, particularly toward African-American students.
In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court issued the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision that banned racial segregation in public schools and affirmed the value of equality in education for all. Over a half a century later, pervasive racial disparities in education indicate that our educational system has yet to meet the mandate of Brown.
The NAACP believes that gross disparities in educational quality and achievement demonstrate the need to remove racial disparities and improve the quality of education throughout this nation. Over 90 percent of America's children are educated in the public education system. Thus, while our public education system remains strong, it is increasingly weakened by consistent racial disparities in the allocation of resources and educationally sound practices that provide all students access to quality education.
In 2002, the NAACP issued a "Call for Action in Education." The document provided an opportunity for states to partner with the NAACP in an effort to provide the needed technical assistance and advocacy to reduce racial disparities. Further, the NAACP document identified many of the critical areas, such as teacher quality, resource equity, racial disparities in the suspension and expulsion of students, resegregation trends, lack of access to a college-bound curriculum, and the overrepresentation and underservicing of racial minorities in special education. In each area, relevant research was reviewed and achievable goals were recommended.
The plan called for the establishment of quantifiable indicators and milestones designed to cut the academic-achievement gap by at least 50 percent. This coordinated effort would have made essential opportunities available to all children and provided real meaning to a national education agenda that proclaimed, Leave No Child Behind!
Although Gov. Gary Locke signed the agreement, his departure from office left the business unfinished and the call to action in Washington state abandoned by the incoming administration.
Today, many Washington state legislators believe that the remedy for resolving the problems in traditional public education can be resolved by public charter schools.
According to a resolution passed by NAACP delegates and ratified by the national board of directors in 2010: "The NAACP rejects the emphasis on charter schools as the vanguard approach for the education of children and urges all of its branches to work to support public schools throughout the nation to educate all children to their highest potential."
On the other hand, if indeed Washington legislators or voters believe their state has a unique opportunity to be among that small number of successful public charter schools, it would be beneficial to students if the language of the law includes the following safeguards:
• All teachers must be certified and teach, in their field, a curriculum that prepares students for careers and college.
• Charter schools must include innovative instructional strategies, not found in traditional public schools, that accelerate academic achievement.
• A charter should be granted only if the proposed school indicates ways to negate the trend toward segregating children based on race, class or academic abilities.
• Private, for-profit entities should not be eligible to receive a charter in Washington state.
Without these safeguards, the best interest of all of the students in the state of Washington could continue to be neglected and exploited because of greed and self-interest.
Phyllis Beaumonte, a retired high-school teacher, is the NAACP education chairwoman for Alaska, Oregon and Washington.

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