REVIEW & OUTLOOK
JUNE 4, 2011
NAACP vs. Black Parents
Standing in the doorway to protect failed schools.
Here’s something you don’t see everyday. Thousands of American blacks held a rally in Harlem last week to protest . . . the NAACP.
The New York state chapter of the civil rights organization and the United Federation of Teachers, the local teachers union, have filed a lawsuit to stop the city from closing 22 of Gotham’s worst schools. The lawsuit also aims to block the city from giving charter schools space to operate in buildings occupied by traditional public schools.
Protesters at the rally, which included parents and charter school operators like Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone, urged the NAACP to withdraw from the suit. But Hazel Dukes, president of the state NAACP chapter, is unpersuaded. Using the kind of language more readily associated with past opponents of black civil rights, Ms. Dukes said that critics of the lawsuit “can march and have rallies all day long. . . . We will not respond.”
What schoolhouses is Ms. Dukes standing in the doorway to protect? Well, at the Academy for Collaborative Education, one of the Harlem schools that the city wants to close, only 3% of students were performing at grade level in English last year, and only 9% in math. At Columbus High School in the Bronx, another school slated for closure, the four-year graduation rate in 2009 was 40%, versus a citywide average of 63%, and less than 10% of special education students graduated on time.
The teachers union wants to keep these abysmal schools open to preserve jobs for their members. This is bad enough. But the union and NAACP also want to limit better educational options for low-income families who can’t afford private schools and can’t afford to move to an affluent neighborhood with decent public schools. The union knows that in a place like New York City, where space is at a premium, blocking charters from operating in public buildings will hamper charter growth.
If the lawsuit succeeds, the awful schools will remain open to damage another generation of children. If you want to know why the NAACP has become irrelevant to the lives of African-Americans, this typical display of moral indifference to the plight of minority children is Exhibit A.
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