NAACP opposition to charter schools based on misinformation, misunderstanding

Jondré Pryor, shown with students at KIPP South Fulton Academy, is one of the longest-serving school leaders in the national KIPP network. (KIPP)

Jondré Pryor is in his ninth year as principal of KIPP South Fulton Academy in East Point and is the 2016 Georgia Charter School Association Principal of the Year. In this essay, Pryor questions why the 64-member board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is taking up a resolution later this week on a moratorium against charter schools at its meeting in Cincinnati .

The NAACP membership called for a moratorium on privately managed charter schools this summer at a national convention Pryor attended. The resolution, which has to be approved by the NAACP board, expresses concern over discipline, increased segregation and financial mismanagement in such charter schools. The growth of for-profit charter schools sector also concerns the NAACP. A similar resolution was approved by the Movement for Black Lives.

Georgia has a mix of charter schools, including some overseen by school districts. However, the growth nationwide is among privately managed charter schools.

With that background, here is principal Pryor’s essay:

By Jondré Pryor

As a school principal, summer is when I have time to leave my building and learn from other people working to provide children with opportunities to fulfill their potential. In July, I went to the annual convention of the NAACP, an organization I’ve long respected and whose leadership in the civil rights movement my students study at our school, KIPP South Fulton Academy, near Atlanta.

At the convention, in Cincinnati, I was in a hall with 2,000 people who looked like me and shared my belief in black advocacy and empowerment. But I came to realize that we part ways when it comes to the school choices we believe families should have.

I had never encountered this before at my charter school, where, naturally, I’m surrounded by people who support tuition-free public schools like ours, which are granted greater independence than traditional public schools in districts. Ninety-three percent of families at KIPP South Fulton are African-American, as are nearly 80 percent of my staff. I know so many charter school leaders who are black, like me. So when a resolution came up on the convention floor to oppose schools like mine and prevent more from opening up, I was surprised.

I came to understand the NAACP’s position a little better when I attended a panel on education with several of my KIPP colleagues and when I talked one-on-one with several delegates. It became clear that misinformation was the basis for their opposition. They had heard stories about a few bad charter schools, and they were using that to judge all 6,800 schools in the movement. There have been some terrible stories about charter schools, just as we’ve all read terrible stories about traditional public schools and private schools. Those are unfortunate, embarrassing, disheartening exceptions.

The broader truth is, charter schools are enormously popular among African-American families, and we can point to some outstanding results for our scholars. Last year, a study in 41 regions by Stanford University found more learning happens for African-American students in charter schools than in traditional district schools — about a month each in reading and in math, per school year.

At the NAACP conference, when I told the delegates about the school I lead and the 345 scholars in grades 5-8 who go there, they were surprised to learn that KIPP is a nonprofit, not a company seeking to make money. (Personally, I am opposed to for-profit schools.) They were surprised to hear that in KIPP’s 200 schools nationwide, we stay with our 80,000 students even after they graduate high school. Eighty-one percent go on to college, and we continue to support them toward their diploma.

My conversations at the NAACP conference said to me that those of us in the charter movement, and particularly black charter advocates and other people of color, need to do a better job of sharing our stories and results. Even though charter schools have been around for 25 years and now enroll nearly 3 million students in 43 states and DC, we’re still only 6 percent of public schools in America. Looking at the list of NAACP board members who will decide next week whether to ratify the resolution passed at the summer convention, I see that many of them live in places where they’ve probably never encountered a charter school.

More than 1,500 black parents, education, business and faith leaders have invited NAACP board members to visit charter schools. I hope they’ll visit mine. They’ll see how we adults model grit, optimism, social intelligence and gratitude for our scholars. They’ll experience joy throughout the building and engage with thoughtful, purposeful scholars. Over and over, they’ll meet scholars focused on graduating from college.

Charter public schools have a lot to show for our support of African-American students. I hope those who have expressed opposition to our schools’ existence will give us a chance to change their minds.

 

Reader Comments 0

22 comments
Astropig
Astropig

 "charter schools have been around for 25 years and now enroll nearly 3 million students in 43 states and DC..."


...And NOT One of those kids was forced to attend those schools by law.Their parents made a choice to attend and keep attending. NOT ONE of the teachers in those schools have lobbied their lawmakers to prevent those parents from exercising their right of choice.


If you're a parent on the fence about school choice,ask yourself: "If the status quo does such a good job,why do they have to use coercion to keep my child locked into a school of their choosing? Why does my ability to choose threaten them?"


Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig I am truly confused about your assertion that  "NOT One of those kids was forced to attend those schools by law.Their parents made a choice to attend and keep attending." 


IF the school your child is zoned for is a charter school, then, like traditional school, it is YOUR school.  There will not be a charter next door to a traditional school so that parents can put their child on a bus that goes to school A or B.


Now, if we are talking about school choice, not charter schools, you still have a problem, as with school choice transportation to the school of choice, if not the zoned school, is rarely provided. It falls to the parent to provide.


ALL parents have choice.  They can (as I did while in grad school) seek out housing near their preferred school.  They can seek out transfer programs, or those that allow non-zoned children to attend if there is room.  Or they can join with other parents to advocate for school improvement (as I did also).


Could you please explain, then, how you arrive at your repeatedly stated conclusion that a charter school will allow choice?  If it is THE school for the neighborhood, how does that mean choice?


It seems to me you are confusing the two, but perhaps you can shed light.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig See this article:http://www.myajc.com/news/news/local-education/model-for-georgias-opportunity-school-district-sho/nsn89/


Particularly the 5th paragraph, in the context of this particular assertion of yours:

They also mention Tennessee’s takeover, but a leading education researcher from that state says Tennessee should be seen as the model for Georgia’s proposed Opportunity School District. Vanderbilt professor Gary Henry, said New Orleans is less relevant because it offered parents the choice to send their kids to any school in the district, while neither Tennessee nor Georgia do.

newsphile
newsphile

@Astropig Here's the low-down on school choice.  In many, many GA counties, there is ONE high school in the entire county.  Under OSD, that ONE school would continue to be either a public school district or may be a charter school managed by an out-of-state for-profit company.  There will be no transportation offered to attend high school in another county.  There is ONE school today; there will be ONE school under OSD.   Now do you understand?

Astropig
Astropig

Agree with the author here.Poor minority kids didn't have school choice or targeted charters during Jim Crow days and now the eduacracy and the NAACP doesn't want them to have any now,either.It used to be racist southern Democrat governors that stood in the schoolhouse door-Now its liberal black plantation masters.


Interesting times.

redweather
redweather

Supporters of OSD frequently accuse teachers who oppose it of having a "financial stake" in perpetuating "failing public schools." But what about Mr. Pryor?  I guess he is disqualified too. 

Astropig
Astropig

@redweather



This isn't really about the OSD.The OSD amendment is never mentioned.Charters, (I'm sure you'll be surprised to learn) exist all over the country! Even in utopian northern liberal commonwealths. Shocking,I know,but true.


EdJohnson
EdJohnson

Once more... There is no such thing as charter public schools.

"A public corporation is one created by the state for political purposes and to act as an agency in the administration of civil government, generally within a particular territory or subdivision of the state, and usually invested, for that purpose, with subordinate and local powers of legislation; such as a county, city, town, or school district. … Private corporations are those founded by and composed of private individuals, for private purposes, as distinguished from governmental purposes, and having no political or governmental franchises or duties. … Again the fact that the business or operations of a corporation may directly and very extensively affect the general public (as in the case of a railroad company or a bank or an insurance company) is no reason for calling it a public corporation.”

http://thelawdictionary.org/public-and-private/

Astropig
Astropig

@EdJohnson


Nonsense.People dumb enough to belive this BS probably DON'T deserve school choice.Stay in your zip code schools and let some other kids get a decent education.You educrat types are like the disruptive kids in school-you don't want to be educated and you don't want anyone else to be either.

Rickster_
Rickster_

@EdJohnson Ever heard of a "Conversion Charter" (as opposed to a start-up charter) school? Those are public schools that have received authority from their local board of education to operate under a charter. One of the best known is Chamblee Charter HS in DeKalb County.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@Rickster_ I know of Chamblee Charter HS.  During my time as Atlanta Area Deming Study Group president, Chamblee Charter HS engaged the study group in coming up with an aim for the school.  Still, "conversion charter" represents a change from public to private.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

KIPP is successful partly because it screens out less desirable students by:

1. Using online only applications

2. Staff and teacher children and siblings of current students get preference

3. Requiring parents to sign these statements

I am aware of KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools' longer school day (7:30 AM - 4:00 PM, except Wednesdays 7:30 AM - 3:00 PM).

I am aware of KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools' longer school week (1-2 Saturday sessions per month).

I am aware of KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools' mandatory summer session in July.

I am aware of KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools' homework policy that requires one to two hours of homework per night, and I understand the parent/guardian's role of signing all homework, tests, and quizzes nightly.

I am aware of KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools' uniform policy which requires students to be dressed in uniform every day.

KIPP's financial and academic accountability practices don't seem to be very transparent for a public school. 

Exposed by CMD: KIPP's Efforts to Keep the Public in the Dark while Seeking Millions in Taxpayer Subsidies http://www.prwatch.org/news/2016/04/13096/exposed-cmd-kipps-efforts-keep-public-dark-while-seeking-millions-taxpayer

decaturgirl
decaturgirl

Yes, the NAACP is clearly out of touch with what the African-American voters want. They want their children in good schools, just like everyone else. Charter schools, vouchers and ESAS are always opposed by the NAACP. Such a shame.

daks_
daks_

The NAACP, like too many other bureaucracies, has long since abandoned its original constituents. 

It now exists to serve its own bosses and those of the Democrat Party: who rely on campaign cash from the teachers' unions.

Too bad. Fatherless children growing up in crime plagued inner cities with terrible public schools could really use some help. And more choices in schooling.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@daks_ When did "fatherless children" appoint you their spokesperson?

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@Astropig  Never said or in any way intimated they did.  But, of course, reading comprehension can be a challenge, can't it?

Annette Laing
Annette Laing

Says the principal of a KIPP chain charter school with an obvious vested interest....