It was my prayer that the NAACP hearing on their charter school moratorium that happened three weeks ago in Los Angeles would go far better than the ones I recently attended in Orlando, Florida and Memphis Tennessee. It would be an understatement to say that both were appalling experiences for me as a black woman and an educator.
NAACP members revealed themselves in both cities to be woefully uninformed, consistently asking questions about charter schools that they should have known the answers to long before their organization voted to put a moratorium in place. It’s as if they decided to put the brakes on something without knowing a damn thing about what it is and how it works.
That takes some nerve when you think of how many parents and children are impacted by their ignorance.
My disappointments and frustrations are many when it comes to these hearings. In Memphis, the most appalling thing I saw was that parents were almost completely shut out of the discussion. The hearing lasted four hours and yet, somehow, they only allowed for twelve minutes of public comment.
Twelve minutes for the people most impacted by their decision. Twelve minutes for people who sat and listened to their uninformed questions and comments for four hours.
The first thing I noticed in Orlando was that the agenda was almost identical to the one I’d seen in Memphis. Some pro-charter people and some anti-charter people. But something really disturbing jumped from the page in Orlando: Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, was on the agenda.
Do Your Homework
One thing was crystal clear very quickly. NAACP members had not done their research, their homework, before voting on the charter moratorium resolution. Most of them didn’t know anything.
Here’s a taste of what they asked:
Do Charter Schools accept students with IEPs?
Do Charters schools cherry pick kids?
Do Charter Schools kick kids out leading to a school to prison pipeline?
Do Charter schools keep the money if a child leaves the school?
Do Charter school teachers have to be trained?
Not only did this line of questioning, directed exclusively to those seen as “pro-charter,” expose a remarkable level of ignorance but it also revealed to me that not enough folks were asking the right questions.
I would have liked to have heard some questions like this:
Are traditional public schools held accountable for failing poor students and students of color?
What are the suspension rates for traditional public schools?
When kids are kicked or pushed out of the traditional system, where do they go?
If charters are not accepting students with IEP’s, then why?
What is the level of racial diversity of teachers in traditional public schools? Are kids currently seeing themselves in their teachers and school administrators?
Are teachers required to take cultural competency and implicit bias training? What are the repercussions for a teacher being blatantly racist and/or a bullying children?
What does the curriculum like in a traditional public schools? Are all kids learning about themselves in history class?
What are traditional public schools doing to retain families and encourage parents to choose them instead of a charter school?
But the worst part of the whole thing, for me, was the arrival of Randi Weingarten who was quite literally treated like some rock star by the NAACP panel.
“We have a very special guest, that has just arrived, Can we all stand up give Randi Weingarten, a standing ovation.”
Are you kidding me? I am now being told to stand for someone who is singlehandedly trying to prevent black and brown kids from having better and more quality school options? I looked around and everyone, except for me and education advocate Rashad Turner, did as they were told and stood up. I literally said out loud, why are y’all standing?
Randi started out talking about all of her concerns about charter schools and all the reasons why they aren’t the solution. And then she mentions that she owns a charter school in Brooklyn. Say What? Well ain’t that the pot calling the kettle black.
I couldn’t stomach any more, so I left.
It was my hope, my prayer, that the Los Angeles hearing went differently. But I ain’t gonna lie; the fact that it was held at the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters was not a very good start.
(This is a guest post by Khulia Pringle, a mother, teacher, and parent organizer in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was originally published at Citizen Ed.)