Dear NAACP, (National body and ranking officials),
I write this open letter to you to express my concern with a recent resolution passed at your National convention (2016) that called for a moratorium on Charter Schools.
As a School leader of a Charter school, and an African-American father, I see first-hand the impact that our charter school has not just had on students of color, but for all students. We are located on Long Island, in Riverhead, NY. Our school was founded in 2000, because parents were fed up with the education offered by the local school district. They fought day and night to have an alternative option for their children to receive a quality education.
Circa 2016, Riverhead Central School District (RCSD) still has its problems. RCSD was recently cited by NY State for having four of its schools receive a failing grade, due to their inability to properly educate the most difficult subgroups, Black and Latino students. This is a persistent problem in education, not just relegated to the Riverhead Central School District, but a real-life problem that plagues many communities of color. Your constituents in these historically underserved communities are the very ones that are in search for better lives through school choice.
As a father of three future change agents, choosing an educational program that is the “right fit” for each of our children will require constant family discussions. Since we are a family of moderate means, we have the financial ability to make choices to educate our children. If we are fed up with the bureaucracy of the public school system, we could choose private, or parochial schools for our children without skipping a beat.
In the case of our son, the best fit for him was Riverhead Charter School, the school where his father is the school leader. Not only do we talk the Charter School talk, we also walk the walk. We’ve seen this 11-year old 8th grader challenged, held accountable, and intrinsically motivated to always do his best. I’m not saying that he could not have been equally challenged at a Traditional Public School (TPS), what I’m saying is that we were able to make a family decision based on school choices, not just being relegated to attending only one option for schooling.
What about the parents that can’t afford to send their kids to private or parochial schools due to a lack of affordability? The same parents that are fed up with the offerings of traditional public school. Should they not have choices as well? Of course they should, especially in a Democratic society that prides itself on choice. School choice is no different.
Your resolution does not come without backlash. I’ve read previous articles that cast the NAACP as out of touch with the Black Community. I’ve also read past articles stating that the NAACP was and has been mortgaged by the teacher’s union. I recently watched a conversation on TV1 in which a fellow school leader, Dr. Steve Perry, Shavar Jeffries, & TV One News host Roland Martin spoke candidly on how the NAACP got it wrong with calling for this resolution for a moratorium on charter schools.
There’s an extreme divide in Black and Latino communities on the relevancy of the NAACP. Actions like this resolution add to the divide. It’s time for the NAACP to galvanize around more relevant 21st century issues that plague our community. The NAACP should not be determining where we send our students to school.
Further, if any member of the NAACP would like to visit our school, to see the impact that Charter Schools have on students of color, I am extending an open invite.
Raymond J. Ankrum, Sr. Ed.M. is a School leader and father of a Charter School scholar. He blogs at Urban Talk.