There’s a battle going on in the Black community.
The NAACP and The Movement for Black Lives, a group of 50 organizations assembled by Black Lives Matter, called for a moratorium on new charter schools this month, declaring they promote segregation and disrupt Black communities.
But pro-choice organization Black Alliance for Educational Options, as well as leading school reformers, reject that charge. An overwhelming 72 percent of African-American parents prefer school choice, according to a comprehensive national survey conducted in 2015 for “The New Orleans Charter School Revolution-Ten Years After Katrina.” That program also aired on TV One.
School choice simply means parents can choose the right schools for their children – whether it’s traditional public schools, charter schools, private schools, religious schools, or even the use of vouchers.
Roland Martin and a group of passionate, committed leaders in education came together for an important discussion on the issue of school choice. During their often times contentious debate, the participants in this dialogue argued their respective sides.
In the video clip above, Dr. Steve Perry, founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut, and Hilary Shelton, Director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau / Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy, begin the town hall meeting in a fiery debate over school choice.
Explaining why the NAACP is wrong, Dr. Perry said, “The public education system has failed the Black community,” and argued the national public school system has turned into a “school to prison superhighway.”
Perry later stated, “At the current rate of growth with the traditional school system, it would take African-Americans 286 years to close the achievement gap – if all we did was give every single Black child access to the highest quality instruction … we could close that achievement gap, according to Harvard research, in eight years.”
Hilary Shelton responded to Dr. Perry’s rebuke of the traditional public school system and expounded on what the NAACP’s moratorium on charter schools means: a “moratorium means we have to stop for a minute.”
According to Shelton, charter schools in America have seen exponential growth in the past fifteen years and said, “The challenge is that they don’t have very much oversight…There is very little focus on how they’re doing it.”
As it relates to oversight, Shelton explained there are charter schools in operation that hire teachers without bachelor’s degrees and teachers without certifications “so in essence, if you’re going to talk about high quality and you’re talking about the problems you have in the public schools, there are plenty of problems there.”
Watch the opening statements of the town hall discussion in the video clip above.
Is School Choice The Black Choice?: One Educator Explains Why He Switched Sides
George Parker, former President of the Washington Teacher’s Union and former Senior Fellow of StudentsFirst Institute, shares why he decided to switch sides from opposing charter schools to supporting school choice.
Parker said he realized his stance was based off looking at the issue “from a union perspective.” His view was concentrated on the control as well as power he had as a union leader, versus addressing the best interest of children.
As it relates to options in education, the former teacher’s union president later said, “If I don’t want my granddaughter to go to a poor performing traditional public school – guess what? I got a choice if I have the money to put them into a private church school.”
On whether poor African-American parents can exercise the same choice, Parker said, “If you restrict them solely to the traditional public school, then the answer is no.”
He later added, “I find it so very difficult today that we as African-American people sitting on a stage deciding whether or not Black children should have choices. We give them choices in tennis shoes to buy … we give them choices in cell phones to buy and then the most important thing in their life, we are going to say we can’t give them choices?”
Watch George Parker address education options in the video clip above.
Shavar Jeffries, Civil Rights Attorney and President of Democrats for Education Reform, explained it is “unbelievably hypocritical” for individuals who do not live in poor communities and have their children enrolled in failing schools to expect them to remain there.
Jeffries said those who can afford to move away to better school districts have done so, “but low-income poor people, they somehow don’t know what they’re doing when they make a choice to find something else.”
Jeffries believes this stance on education is “rooted in White supremacy to believe that parents of color aren’t making smart choices and don’t know what’s best for their children.”
“There is a reason they’re flocking from these traditional public schools,” he continued.
Watch Shavar Jeffries address oversight in public education in the video clip above.
Part II of Is School Choice The Black Choice? airs Friday, October 28th starting at 7AM ET on TV One. If you are unable to watch, please set your DVR so that you don’t miss a moment of this important conversation addressing the education of our children.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty