NAACP fights against 'separate and unequal' charter schools — then faces attack from right wing pundits, corporate reformers, and Arne Duncan

In a struggle that has been brewing for more than two years, New York City has become the battleground against the charter schools' takeover of public school buildings in the latest iteration of the massive campaign to privatize public schools in the USA under the leadership of the U.S. Department of Education and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. As more and more charter schools are licensed in major cities because of the requirements of the Obama administration's "Race To The Top" programs (which forced states and cities to expand charters and testing despite local objections), one of the issues is the slow takeover of real public schools from the inside out by privileged charters that are given co-location privileges and then slowly expand and push out the remaining public school, while raiding the public school's highest scoring students, leaving behind the children with the greatest needs, and then lording over the public schools because of the charter schools "success" is having high test scores (the bottom line of both the Hedge Fund billionaires supporting charters and backing the attacks on public schools by the Obama administration).

NAACP President Ben Jealous has come under attack from right wing anti-union corporate school reformers from Arne Duncan to the Wall Street Journal since the NAACP announced its opposition to the expansion of charter schools in major cities. Above, NAACP President Ben Jealous gave a stirring address on the new movements for civil and human rights to the convention of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) on July 9, 2010, in Seattle. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The fight back against the charters' infection in public schools buildings has been taking place, with various measures of success, in Chicago and New York for several years, with some of the most dramatic confrontations growing in the poorer areas of New York City. Despite the national acclaim (including White House praise) for the charter school propaganda movie "Waiting for Superman", New York teachers, parents, and children have been increasing their organizing against the charter takeover of public buildings, which many are beginning to compare to a virus-like infection.

The recent blockbuster debut of the New York movie "The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman" (see earlier reports in Substance at the end of the May Home Page) has added to the weapons available to those who want to continue real public schools and halt the spread of privatization, union busting and teachers bashing centralized in Race To The Top and promoted by most of the nation's corporate media.

But in the past week, a major new ally has joined the fight against the new version of Jim Crow represented by the expansion of charter schools.

The NAACP has begun a protest against the separate but equal reality that underlies the charter expansion.

And for their trouble, the NAACP is being called names by every privatization proponent from Arne Duncan to former New York City School Chancellor Joel Klein (who now works for Rupert Murdoch at The Wall Street Journal).

On June 4, 2011, the NAACP responded to the critics in a powerful statement.


Dear Friend,

New York City has become the latest battleground in the national fight for education equality.

In some schools, hallways serve as a stark dividing line. Classrooms with peeling paint and insufficient resources sit on one side, while new computers, smartboards and up-to-date textbooks live on the other. One group of students will be taught in hallways and basements while others under the same roof make use of fully functional classrooms.

New York schools have increasingly co-located charter schools inside existing public schools as a cost cutting measure. Handled improperly, co-locations can lead to disparities, division and tension among students, which can impede learning.

In many instances, traditional students are forced into shorter playground periods than their charter school counterparts, or served lunch at 10 am so that charter students can eat at noon. The inequity could not be more glaring. And similar proposals are being considered in other states and counties nationwide.

Throughout our history, the NAACP has fought for equal educational opportunities for all Americans. When we have seen inequality in school districts from Los Angeles, California to Topeka, Kansas, we have never hesitated to fight for what is right. Today the fight continues in the nation's largest school district.

You can help shed light on this inequality by signing the NAACP petition today and supporting New York City students.

Last month, after a year of attempts to negotiate with the New York City Department of Education to correct these inequalities after they lost to us in court, the NAACP was forced to go to court again to compel them to comply with state law.

Our return to court has triggered a smear campaign against the NAACP.

In recent days we have faced a coordinated media attack backed by funds from right wing opponents of public schools. Unable to dispute the facts of the case, they've chosen to cast aspersions on the NAACP, to question our motivations, and to sling mud at our legacy.

This is a tactic meant to silence the NAACP, but with your help, we will not be silenced.

Will you join us in speaking out? Stand alongside the NAACP, New York City parents and students to let the Department of Education know that all students deserve a quality education.

Sign the Petition now and let New York know that those who believe in justice will not back down.

The NAACP will always work for the day when all students can access high-quality public education. We will not tolerate the neglect of the hundreds of thousands of families depending on traditional public schools, nor will we stand by as public schools are illegally closed, communities are ignored in defiance of the law and student success is left to chance.

And we will never be silenced by right wing attacks on our reputation.

The NAACP has always believed that educating children in a separate and unequal system that provides a quality education to the lucky few at the expense of the many is the wrong kind of education, and we will continue to fight, as we always have, for equal opportunity for all.

Thank you for standing with us.


Ben (Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO, NAACP)


Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

2 + 1 =