Movement for Black Lives Policy Agenda Includes Halting Charter Schools

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

A coalition of more than 50 black-led organizations known collectively as the Movement for Black Lives has released a policy platform on a variety of topics, from prisons and police to economic justice, as well as education.

Aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement, the coalition is pushing for a constitutional amendment that would guarantee a fully-funded education, as well as a moratorium on charter schools, a stop to school closures, and an end to "market reformer" programs such as Teach for America.

"We recognize that not all of our collective needs and visions can be translated into policy, but we understand that policy change is one of many tactics necessary to move us towards the world we envision, a world where freedom and justice is the reality," M. Adams, co-executive director of Freedom Inc., said.

Similar issues were discussed at the national convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in July, where a resolution was passed that called for a moratorium on charter schools. According to the resolution, charters have contributed to the continuation of segregation and use a high amount of punitive and exclusionary punishments. It went on to say that the NAACP will work to create stronger investigative bodies to better oversee instances of charter school fraud, corruption, and waste.

Hilary Shelton, the bureau director of the Washington, D.C. chapter of the NAACP, noted on Roland Martin's talk show, NewsOne Now, that the group is not looking to shut down charter schools in the United States. Instead, she said they are looking to put a stop to the opening of any new ones until their impact can be observed as well as their commitment to follow civil rights laws.

While the resolution will not become official policy until the meeting of the NAACP's national board later in the fall, it does build on resolutions from 2010 and 2014 that also criticized charter schools.

Jonathan Stith, the national coordinator for the Alliance for Educational Justice and co-author of the Black Lives' education proposal, titled "A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom and Justice," said that the platform called for community control when asked by Rachel Cohen for The American Prospect how the coalition came to determine their position concerning charter schools, considering that a large number of black families support school choice.

He added that many groups who support charters are looking for some level of control, and that the proposal calls for initiatives that would support this, such as democratically elected school boards and an end to state takeovers.

"We recognize that for families, the first priority is to find the best educational opportunity for their children, and some families feel that charter schools provide that," Stith says. "But we feel that is a false choice; charter schools are used to pull funding from other schools, they destabilize traditional public schools, and ultimately lead to their closures."

He went on to say that an increasing number of black families have had bad experiences with charter schools and have been pushed out with limited rights and protections. Stith said the proposal looked to stop this through community control and bringing an end to privatization.

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