On Saturday the NAACP voted for a resolution urging an indefinite moratorium on the expansion of charter schools. This was no surprise: everyone had predicted that the erstwhile civil rights organization, now apparently headed by old-school union-panderers, has, as the Wall Street Journal opined today, outlived its original “moral purpose.”
Last week I tore into New Jersey’s prematurely-anointed next governor Phil Murphy on the mistaken assumption that he shared the troglodytic views of his fellow board members of the NAACP. But I was wrong. According to an article published last night in Newark Inc., Murphy, whatever you think of N.J.’s Soprano-like process of choosing elected officials, had enough backbone to defy the NAACP consensus and vote against the resolution.
The article offers a behind-the-scenes lens into the Saturday morning board meeting, the first I’ve seen. Murphy told reporter Mark Bonamo that “he found it difficult to support the NAACP resolution with such deep divisions on the resolution.”
Communities may disagree as a matter of opinion, but leadership requires a careful examination of all facts and a shared goal of arriving at a consensus, when possible. I could not support today’s resolution without having such clarity. As I have said publicly, the resolution as presented went too far from my own position. A ‘time-out’ to gather facts would have relevance to policy, but an immediate defunding of charter schools would put kids at risk.
Murphy appears to have doubts about the process used by the leadership of the NAACP, specifically its failure to listen to the pleas from the growing community of parents who rely on charters as an alternative to long-failing traditional schools. However,
I am encouraged that the board agreed to the formation of a task force — a path I recommended and vigorously supported — to move us away from talk of ‘us versus them’ and bring together both sides of this contentious debate in a search for fact-based common ground and a path forward. This is vitally important especially given the impacts of getting the district-to-charter school balance right in communities of color. I look forward to being part of this discussion.
He concludes, “”I remain committed to bringing both sides of this issue together in New Jersey to figure out what works, what hasn’t, and how district schools and charter schools can best coexist in our communities.”
That’s really the point. In New Jersey cities like Newark, Camden, and Trenton, public charter schools are a permanent part of the educational landscape. They already co-exist with traditional public schools, despite distortions from anti-charter lobbyists who include NJEA (which recently endorsed Murphy as Christie’s successor and supported the NAACP resolution)..
The next step is for public charters and public traditionals to co-exist without antagonism.
Those who harken back to the original conception of charters as “laboratories of innovation,” experimenting with different strategies to best serve public school students and then transporting successful experiments back into traditional schools, ignore reality. For example, one of the most successful experiments that many charters incorporate into their programming is extended school calendars. Children gain months of extra achievement through additional learning time. But teacher union leaders disdain longer days and years and so this innovation is rarelytransported into traditional schools.
Charters are here to stay. They now serve 10% of the New York City schoolchildren (the largest district in the country), and will eventually serve half or more of public schoolchildren in Newark and Camden.
Pardon the crudeness, but the NAACP is pissing into the wind. That’s hardly a dignified stance for a storied civil rights organization. All the Board has done is alienate itself from the parents and students whom it pretends to represent. Murphy got this vote exactly right.