Her father desegregated America’s public schools. Now, she champions charter schools.

Principal Gilberte Pascal high-fives students at the Kindezi School Old Fourth Ward Campus. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Cheryl Brown Henderson, whose father Oliver Brown was the leading plaintiff in Brown v. Board of Education, writes today about the value of charter schools and how school choice relates to her father’s legacy. She is the founding president and CEO of the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research and on the board of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Tonight at 7, civil rights and education activists will meet at Ebenezer Baptist Church to discuss the role of charter schools in the African-American community. The “Is School Choice the Black Choice” forum will discuss how charter schools are serving African-American students, who represent 28 percent of national charter school enrollment. Georgia’s 100 charter schools educate 83,000 students, 28,000 of whom are African-American.

A panel at the forum includes journalist Roland Martin, author and choice advocate Kevin Chavous, Atlanta Board of Education Chair Courtney English, President for the Georgia chapter of the NAACP Francys Johnson and Director of School Operations at KIPP Strive Primary School Terra Walker.

Here is Henderson’s column on the importance of charter schools to black students.

By Cheryl Brown Henderson

As we approach Martin Luther King Day on Monday, civil rights and Dr. King’s legacy are at the forefront of the national dialogue. For me, the struggle for civil rights is directly tied to the struggle to ensure that children of color can sit in the classrooms of excellent public schools just like their white peers.

This belief in the centrality of education is both personal and practical. On the personal level, it is so important to me because my father, Oliver Brown, was part of the brave group of parents who filed the lawsuit against the Topeka, Kansas Board of Education.

The Supreme Court case that resulted, Brown v. Board of Education, paved the way for children of color like me to have educational options that were closed off to us before.

My commitment to education also is practical because of what I have seen throughout my career. Time and time again, I have experienced the power of an excellent education to propel children of color on a pathway of success. I have unfortunately also seen the opposite. I have seen how under-resourced failing schools needlessly hold bright children back, placing barrier after barrier in their way as they try to use their God-given talents to climb the ladder of opportunity.

My personal and practical history helps to explain why I continue to speak up about the NAACP’s decision to make a moratorium on charter public schools part of their national policy.

CHERYL BROWN HENDERSON

CHERYL BROWN HENDERSON

Let me first say that all of us owe a huge debt of gratitude to the NAACP. When the successful argument was made for African-American parents in the 1950s, it was NAACP lawyers who achieved this historic accomplishment. And in the decades since, the organization has been an effective and passionate advocate for equality in our schools.

So it is no exaggeration to say that I consider the NAACP a true ally and friend in the movement for civil rights and quality schools for all children. But sometimes it’s necessary to tell your friends when they are wrong, and I believe the organization is wrong on charters. Public charter schools aren’t an impediment to equality and success for children of color, they are a valuable tool.

This is the message that I hope to hear as the NAACP continues to travel across the country, holding town hall discussions on public education and the role of charter schools.

Across the country, three million students are enrolled in public charter schools and millions more are on waiting lists hoping for a spot. What’s important to realize is that the majority of those students are children of color. In fact, across the country charter schools educate more children of color and children living in low-income households than traditional public schools.

Those parents who send their children to charters and who are willing to wait on those long lists are doing so for a very good reason. Charter public schools work. And they work especially well for children of color.

This was recently confirmed by a Stanford University study, which found that, compared to their similarly situated peers in traditional public schools, children of color in charter schools learn dramatically more.

Black students in public charter schools gained an average of 36 extra days of reading and 26 extra days of math when compared to their traditional school peers. For black students from low-income backgrounds, the relative gains were even more impressive. Those students gained 44 more days of reading and 59 days — almost two whole months — of extra math.

With educational gains like that, charter public school students are set up for success. Sitting in classrooms where teachers are able to use curricula that have been designed to fit their needs gets kids excited about learning. And this excitement carries right through their school years. Charter high school graduation rates are higher than traditional public schools, and there are many charter schools where every single student walks across the stage at graduation.

Dr. King once remarked that “If America is to remain a first-class nation, we cannot have second class citizens.” For too long, our public schools have failed kids of color, treating them like second class citizens by failing to teach them how to read, how to write, how to do math and how to succeed in college and in life.

Charter public schools are not perfect. The NAACP is right to call out that all schools, including charters, need to do a better job of integrating our students. But as advocates for civil rights and educational equality, our task is not to close off an important path to learning, but to expand this success and build on it. Instead of calls for moratoriums, there should be calls for taking the lessons of successful public schools of all models and applying them to underperforming schools.

We want all of our kids — whether they attend charters, magnets or traditional public schools — to receive the education that will ensure that they are first-class citizens. On this MLK Day, this should be our goal.

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Reader Comments 0

79 comments
EdJohnson
EdJohnson

Friday evening at Ebenezer was Roland Martin and his fellow new-age African-American compradors and racialists out selling charter schools and making of themselves a disgusting spectacle.Fortunately, many people in attendance did not take a liking to the selling.In fact, many of those who didn’t stood up for public education and boldly confronted and pushed back on Martin’s black-charter schools stupidity.

The highlight of the evening came when an autistic child summoned his inner courage and strength to take his father’s place in the line of people waiting to address the panel.  When his turn came to speak, the child asked the only profound question that was asked all evening.

The autistic younger asked, as I heard it: “How do you improve all schools?”

No panelist answered the question with any intelligence that showed having truly heard the question, let alone having understood it.  In fact, I did not hear any panelist speak the word “improve” all evening.

As one might expect, the adults praised the child’s performance but not the substance of his question.  Theirs was a patronizing and condescending response to the child.  And, yet, it is the likes of Courtney English, Kevin Chavous, and Roland Martin out yammering about “failing public schools” and “Putting Kids First” yet they show they have no understanding of what a failing school is, as Chavous revealed by parroting Gov. Nathan Deals latest propaganda that “there are more chronically failing schools this year than last year.”  For Chavous and his fellow new-age African-American compradors, a failing school is what Gov. Deal and other moneyed interests say are failing schools.  They haven’t a clue they are the new-age compradors.  Or, they do have a clue but willfully play the role for personal gain at the expense of African-America children’s education, hence ultimately at the expense of civil society and sustaining democratic ideals and practice.

After the panel presentation ended I went to child to probe a bit.

I asked him: “Do you think they answered your question?”

“Sort of,” he said.  “Can you tell me why ‘Sort of’?”

“Not to improve just my school, but to improve all schools.  I don’t think it is fair to make some schools D and F schools instead of improving them to be A and B schools.”

At the point, I break out with chicken skin.

So I humbly asked him, as well as his mother and father, that he never stop asking his terribly improvement question: “How do you improve all schools?”

How is it, I wondered, that this autistic child would have the capacity to step outside of himself and into the position of others being harmed?

How is it that this autistic child would have within himself the empathy to understand – no – to know the importance of improving all schools, yet adults like English, Chavous, and Martin haven’t such knowing?

And the fact the child has such knowing, has such empathy, and Cheryl Brown Henderson obviously does not, I include her among new-age African-American compradors and racialists.  Of course, it was the African compradors of old the facilitated the slave trade.  It wasn’t just White Europeans snatching Blacks out of Africa.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@EdJohnson Thanks for the update on the meeting and teaching me a new word - "comprador".

ErnestB
ErnestB

@EdJohnson


Thanks for this summary.  Do you know if media outlets attended?  I always like hearing different perspectives.

Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

@EdJohnson Mr. Johnson's basic argument is made often, although rarely in so insulting a manner to anyone in disagreement.    Stripped to its essentials , the argument amounts to this: 


"We can't make any improvement without making all possible improvements."


To which the proper reply is: "Baloney."

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

After reading and thinking about this article, the truth is re-segregating schools would be a great idea. I get it now. Lets be honest this article is about a black charter school run by black people for black people, not opportunity!


No problem...........All those poor people and Dr. King had it all wrong.

Starik
Starik

@JBBrown1968 Resegregating schools would be unfortunate; look at DeKalb County, where the district leadership has accomplished it.  DeKalb middle schools, district-wide are 9.6% white, 77% economically disadvantaged, ranked 22d of 23 Metro districts. High schools: 11% white, 73% poor and ranked 23rd of 23. Elementary: 11% white, 73% poor. 21st of 23.  Chamblee Charter HS is decent, 23% white and 39% poor. Kittredge Magnet Jr. High is at the top of Metro Middle schools; 61% white, 20% black, 13% Asian and 7% poor. What we have is a problem assimilating black children into mainstream schools.  We haven't handled that well since the Brown decision.  That's what we need to rethink; how we get kids of all races who want to learn in schools that accommodate them, while doing what we can to educate the black kids who don't want to join the mainstream, and would prefer to remain segregated.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Starik @JBBrown1968 The problem is schools are not about educating children, public or private. It's all about the money. Good old racism is a live and well in the black and white community!

Starik
Starik

@JBBrown1968 @Starik Yes. Too many teachers who don't know what to teach or don't want to teach, but it's the best job they can get. Better than Wal-Mart, or even the Post Office. Some dislike the kids they're teaching. Remember the APS teacher in the testing scandal..."these kids are dumb."

Starik
Starik

@JBBrown1968 @Starik Not ALL teachers, of course. I'd bet your wife knows some, depending on where she teaches.

Starik
Starik

@JBBrown1968 @Starik That's correct in my experience. I'd bet the teachers I complain about are to be found in bad schools in bad districts.

E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum

@JBBrown1968 @Starik Public schools are definitely about educating children.

Ask any educator how much  time

outside of their standard duties, and

how much of their income is spent to

foster an environment where learning

can take place and thrive in the classroom. Ask any administrator how

much time is spent organizing, developing parent and community 

relationships, and managing a school.


Starik
Starik

@JBBrown1968 @Starik In Georgia, they'll make you a principal. Except for some coaches that would mean a pay cut.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@E Pluribus Unum @JBBrown1968 @Starik I think teachers want to teach. I also think the current system is against them. No one can teach 35 kids per class and do an effective job! I completely blame the system.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Do not let the "choice" profiteers hijack the logical argument or your tax money. 

I am all for each parent of school-aged children being given a rebate of ONLY THEIR local and state education tax monies paid each year if they remove their child(ren) from the public school system. They can then choose any private form of education they desire. 

They do not, however, get to take money from taxpayers that have no school-aged children to make their choice. That right belongs to the community and state taxpayers. ; all of them.

The state run charter school system hides all spending, hiring, and personnel from the taxpayer while REAL public schools post this information online. The fake republican conservatives on this blog consistently ignore this hidden money/personnel scam that is the model for choice and charter profiteers. The "choice" profiteers seek to take $ billions in public education funds from all taxpayers without being accountable to the taxpayers.


E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum

@ Lee_CPA2   It seems many residents in Cobb County

                           are paying a"Sports Equity" tax in the

                          amount of almost $300 million dollars

                          to build a stadium for a successful

                          sports franchise. I suppose you would

                         not consider that this sports franchise

                        received welfare.It is possible to 

                        expect personal responsibility and

                        assist people in need. We have a

                        history of expecting personal responsibilty

                        in the United States while helping

                       communities (Tennessee Valley Authority).

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

"Educational EQUITY".  Whenever you see that phrase, taxpayers need to hold onto their pocketbooks.  

------------------------------------


"Is School Choice the BLACK Choice Forum".   LOL.  What we have here is Black Flight from, well, other blacks.


Let me sum the "forum" up for you:

1.  When Whites want to leave traditional public schools in favor of charters, that's bad.

2.  When blacks want to leave traditional public schools in favor of charters, that's good.


I will also venture to say that this "black choice forum" will not"

1.  Discuss the dysfunction of black families and the role it plays in failing black schools.

2.  Discuss the role of perpetual welfare in the black communities and how it creates the dysfunction of black families.

3.  Discussion of ANYTHING related to personal responsibility.


I'm sure Maureen will let us know when the WHITE School Choice Forum will be held.....

DogTheMan
DogTheMan

Charter School are code for separate but equal!!! Woe the Republic!!!


Starik
Starik

@DogTheMan Separate is not, and can never be equal if you're sorting by race. Separation by attitude and intelligence is something else.

Annette Laing
Annette Laing

Follow the money. How much is she paid? By whom? Would someone of her qualifications be making this kind of money were she not hanging on her father's coattails and spouting a corporate agenda?( Oh, and how well do these kids do once they become teenagers and rebel against the soul-destroying drilled regimen that is their lot?)

E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum

The majority of traditional public schools

do a decent job educating students. Many

charter schools also do a decent job, but

the charter schools also operate with a

different set of laws that provide some built-in

advantages. There are two main questions I have 

for charter school advocates that argue choice 

is the most important factor in student success

 rates- 

 1) If choice is the dominant policy for

      charter school advocates, why doesn't

      the school reform movement, equally

      advocate for inter-district choice for

     traditional public schools?


    ( I have yet to see supporters  of the school

      reform movement argue that a student  in

      a labeled "failing school" should be able to

      transfer to high performing school such as

      Walton High School regardless if the student

      resides in the district boundaries.)


2) Why is it necessary to denigrate the majority

     of traditional public schools that are doing a

     decent job when many of the charter schools

     use the same pool of educators that  work in

     successful traditional public schools?




Starik
Starik

@E Pluribus Unum (1.) That would endanger the districts that are working.  (2) What do you consider a "decent" job? A high graduation rate for students who can't read above an 6th grade level?

E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum

@Starik @E Pluribus Unum

How would allowing the same students seeking to enter the charter schools 

endanger the districts with higher

 achievement ratings? What percent of 

the students statewide do you think

graduate with a reading level below

the sixth grade? It becomes a Catch 22

with educational testing. when the 

testing scores increase, some people

argue that the results improved because 

the test is easier, which leads to more

rigorous standards and an initial decline

in scores until students get adjusted to

a new set of requirements. What middle

school students are covering in math 

today is far more complex than what

they were tested on thirty ,or forty years

ago.

I

Starik
Starik

@E Pluribus Unum @Starik That depends on the school, and the district. Remember the HS graduation test? I've met many hs grads whose reading and writing skills are abysmal. We need academic schools, and basic skill schools, trade schools and how-to-survive-in prison schools for the kids who are hellbent on spending their lives there. 

Tom Green
Tom Green

It's ironic that she's leading the next wave of segregation that will be based on income.

Astropig
Astropig

Bravo, Ms. Henderson.Keep fighting the good fight.


Charter schools' 6% annual compound growth rate tell a very different story than the narrative coming from the eduacracy.From a one-school experiment to a national movement in 25 years...The future is very,very bright.(puts on Charlie Cool sunglasses)


Echoing Ernest B (below)-I'd like to see some (balanced unbiased) coverage of this event.These days,that's a lot to ask for,I know,but we can always hold out hope.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Astropig Well yeah.....no standardized testing......no accountability......cost the state 100 more dollars per student......social engineering......no sped kids......no discipline problems...all of one race if you desire....no real responsibility to the community it serves.....no background checks......the list goes on.

Shades on for sure!

Astropig
Astropig

@JBBrown1968 @Astropig


Her dad fought the then-status quo and won.She's fighting people like you today. Some things never change.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Astropig How many Public schools k12 are in Georgia? 2400? How many are on the take over list? 127? 

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

You are fake news and trying to play CNN's game. The burden is on you to prove your position.

I'll bet you cannot.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

@ JBBrown1968

Prove what you typed, in detail and with credible references.

The clock is running.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Starik @JBBrown1968 @Astropig Clayton, Dekalb, Bibb, Atl all seem to be the biggest failures according to the number of schools on the list.

Wonder what they all have in common and it's not Race.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@BurroughstonBroch Quick Facts About Georgia Public Education 2015  Student Demographics  Total Number of Public School Students 1,756,553

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

@ JBBrown1968

Facts are such pesky, inconvenient things. They are never at hand to support one's prejudices when needed.

Jedthrow88
Jedthrow88


@JBBrown1968 @Astropig JBBrown1968, you sound like a black nationalist.  Charter schools give people a choice and there is plenty of social engineering in public schools by the way.  Charter schools do run background checks just like daycare centers so you are misinformed and need to investigate you rhetoric more thoroughly.   You sound not like a fool but an absolute fool.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Jedthrow88 @JBBrown1968 @Astropig Have two close friends that send their children to a Charter school in Atlanta they were shocked that the staff was not background checked or fingerprinted. My  rhetoric is not from the internet.  I really like to listen to people that have experience not yahoo.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Jedthrow88 @Astropig Seem like one of the three would be able to refute what I have stated....Bring it on Brock, Jed, and the famous loudmouth pig!

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Jedthrow88 @JBBrown1968 @Astropig I would be surprised if Mrs. Brown Henderson has fingerprints and a background check on file at her school. Lets be clear I am not saying she is bad....just different rules for Charter Schools and leaders.  

Starik
Starik

@JBBrown1968 @Astropig Look around an early grade classroom anywhere. Then visit the high school where these cute, bright kids will be warehoused in a few years. What went wrong?

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Starik @JBBrown1968 @Astropig Society! As a community we must look at all kids and  make them confirm to rules, Hard facts are what is not pleasant is sometimes necessary.