J4J Letter to the NAACP Board

Members of the Board,

As a national network made up of grassroots parent and student community organizations—the very communities impacted by school privatization—the Journey for Justice Alliance supports and applauds the NAACP for your consideration of a resolution, passed at your National Convention, calling for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools, among other things.

In an editorial published on October 13th, The New York Times says that charters give children in poor communities their only opportunity for a superior education. We could not disagree more, and we responded directly to The New York Times editorial board to say just that. In fact, as the NAACP well knows, equity gives children an opportunity for excellent education.

The J4J Alliance is based in Chicago, where a Chicago Public Schools neighborhood school in Lincoln Park on the north side of town offers Mandarin Chinese, Arabic and Spanish as world language options and every teacher has a teacher aide.  Yet in the same city, a neighborhood school on the south side has only a single teacher’s aide in the entire building, no world language classes, and no librarian.  These aren’t failing schools; as a public we have been failed.

Charter supporters suggest that the response to inequity should be to let charters expand and give children what they are missing in traditional public schools?  Let’s be clear; we are not anti-charter ideologues. We applaud the 1 out of 5 charters that outperform traditional public schools.

In a 2014 report, Death by a Thousand Cuts, the Journey for Justice Alliance reported on two of the nation’s most celebrated charters, Chicago’s Urban Prep, which boasts that 100% of its graduates go to college, and Noble Street Charters, which Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says has the “secret sauce” to educating urban kids. These two charter networks were exposed in our report for having some of the highest suspensions and expulsion rates ever recorded.  What happens to the 59% of the freshman who never make it to their senior year at Urban Prep?  That is not school reform; that is portfolio management, so that the numbers look good enough to get more school’s, and more profits.  Like the NAACP, we are skeptical of the “secret sauce” theory. We have seen that the “secret sauce” may be decidedly unsavory.

There is ample evidence to say that the privatization experiment on a whole has failed.  We reject billionaires who are blind to inequity and believe that the market is the key to education reform.  Some of these are the very individuals and organizations that are bankrolling the massive campaign against passage of the NAACP resolution.  Yet they have had no real conversations with the community organizations in the communities most impacted by charters.  They accept no accountability for the gutting of Black educators in the United States as a result of school closings, and the failure of teacher preparation programs.

We commit to being partners with the NAACP as we move forward to zero in on education inequity; school funding, curriculum, discipline policy disparities, wraparound supports and make sure that we eliminate the apartheid system of education in the United States.  We, at the Journey for Justice Alliance, join you, and the Movement for Black Lives in a united call for a moratorium on charters and school privatization. Our stand is in the righteous civil rights tradition of Thurgood Marshall who interviewed children in the south and heard their voices in his field work forBrown v. Board of Education.

Thank you for your strong stand.

Jitu Brown,
National Director
Journey for Justice Alliance