Recently, the NAACP called for a moratorium on Charter Schools, which would deal a blow to African American families and their right to choice in places such as California. There are a lot of families not sure what to make of the call by the NAACP but here is my message directly to parents most impacted. It is important to note that at the time of this publication, this resolution is still awaiting a vote from its national board. I say all of this as a member of the NAACP as well. 

Demand choice and quality in your schools because you and your child(ren) deserve it. Listen, here are the facts, if you just happen to be a person of color, and you don’t make a lot of money, chances are your school isn’t up to snuff. There are caring people on both sides of this reform/anti-reform debate. There are caring people inside the buildings that occupy your neighborhood, but the facts are clear, that when a school has a large free and reduced lunch student body, the school tends to underperform.

Now that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you or our babies. What it does mean is that the school will require your help. It will require your voice and only when you know and demand quality, will it change.

Do you know what happens when parents at high performing schools see things they don’t like? I’ll tell you, they complain, write letters and organize. People, I’ve seen this happen regarding graduation dates and the grass not being cut. Now just picture what they’d do if 80% of the student body weren’t performing at grade level.

You can get involved in a bunch of ways; I’ll list a few here but feel free to email me if you want to know more at [email protected]:

– Most public schools have a governing body made up of parents, join it. Seriously. They look at budgets, school designs and more. Principals lean on these people. If you can, become one of these people. 

– Build relationships with your child(ren)’s teachers and principal. Never underestimate the power of a relationship. You’ll get information sooner and will have the ear of the people running the whole shebang.

– Write letters, emails, text messages, hell, send a carrier pigeon. Stay in the minds of the people educating your baby. When I was Director at a youth program, I worked to serve all of my students, but there was a handful of parents every single year that I knew were watching and ready to help or call us out, whichever we needed. I love those parents to this day, and all of their kids turned it around and went to college. ALL. OF. THEM.

You are not wrong for making the best decisions for your children – traditional, charter or even private (yes, even private). Listen, I understand the NAACP made news recently calling for a moratorium on Charter schools. Check this out; you are not required to sacrifice your child(ren) to a system that you feel isn’t working for you or your family. I work in public education, I’ve only attended Traditional Public Schools (TPS), and I love what I am blessed to do for a living. However, YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO SACRIFICE YOUR CHILDREN TO ANY EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM NOT SERVING THEM.

Whether you choose a TPS, a Charter or a Private school, you do what is best for you. I’ve seen anti-reformers write things insinuating that people of color that support choice and alternative methods of education are in some form selling out the race or being “house negroes.” Forget all that. We know what’s at stake for our babies without a sound education.

Regardless of the type, if the school is serving your child well, then I’m in support of you. If the school is not educating your child, regardless of type, then rise up and do what you need to do.

I’ve seen Black folks with means get ashamed to tell people they sent their child to private school. It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen! Why are you ashamed to provide for your kids? You don’t need to justify it. Check it out, if my parents had the means and found a dope private school for me as a child and didn’t send me to it, we’d have a very real problem! I say this a lot and will continue to say it, the schools I went to did quite a poor job of educating me. They weren’t safe either. Just because you don’t make a lot of money and have melanin in your skin doesn’t mean you deserve less. 

The politics are never more important than the needs of your child. NEVER! Not even a little bit. I just said, I have no opinion on the type of schooling you choose for your family. So, please do not be the person of color that sent their child to a private school and then start shaming other people of color living in poverty for wanting to send their child to a charter. Don’t do that.

I just gave you props for making the best decision for you and your’s, don’t deny that same opportunity to someone else.

Don’t be the person that exercised their right to educational choice and then go into the hood and start screaming privatization to someone trying to ensure their child gets the same thing you got. Black folks have historically been miseducated far before the rise of Charter Schools or even vouchers. I see you all. I know many of you. Stop that. As an oppressed people, how do we work together better? How do I support you regardless of the delivery system of education you choose?

Don’t blindly trust any of us. Ever! Seriously. Always ask for data. Look for proof. Look at history. Look at what you’ve seen in your neighborhood. Whether the person is a reformer or anti-reformer, do your research. Walk in those hallways and talk to people, all different types. Every school won’t work well for every child — that’s just the truth. This business breeds a lot of demagogues on all sides, and your support is the capital they need to survive and thrive.

Finally, there are excellent public schools, both traditional and charter. There are also some pretty horrible ones too, both traditional and charter. People will be cherry pick stories to build their cases, but the truth is, it is good and bad in all of these systems. Find what works for you. Here’s what I do know without a shadow of a doubt, if there was a school that served mostly white, affluent kids and it was failing 80% of those students, those people would burn it down. They would, for lack of a better term, exercise their right to choice because they understand how powerful of a tool choice is.

Black people, don’t be so quick to hand over a form of power you currently have. Public education is something I’m dedicated to improving, and the pressure from you all is paramount in making that happen. Keep demanding quality. I promise you; it is possible. 

In Love, Cole Out.

Dr. Charles Cole, III​ is an educator focused on the advancement of youth of color, but more specifically Black males. This passion comes from his experiences growing up without proper support, including being homeless and attending more than ten elementary schools across the country while his parents battled addiction and incarceration. Throughout that experience, no adult, no group, no organization ever asked him how he was achieving success nor how he was surviving. Schools were not a place where students in similar predicaments were learning. This experience helped lead to the publication of his first book, ​Beyond Grit and Resilience. As founder of ​Energy Convertors​, Charles comes from the community and has shared many of the students’ experiences. Previously Charles served as a social worker, a Director for Teach for America, the Vice Chair of the California Young Democrats, Black Caucus and at a director’s level with various youth-focused nonprofits. n addition to founding Energy Convertors, Charles is a national speaker and a writer, and he can be found in Oakland and around the country working with youth on how to equip themselves appropriately to lay the groundwork for a bright future. Charles is currently a board member of ​UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital​, and co-host of the ​8 Black Hands Podcast. Charles’ life goal is to better the communities he grew up in, which include Chicago, Paducah, KY, and Oakland.    


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