In the aftermath of the presidential election, we’ve seen liberals engage in protests, even rioting, demanding their voices be heard on race, gender equality and other issues.
These loud calls for action make their silence on real threats to school choice all the more alarming.
Sadly, liberals are on the wrong side of history for the civil rights issue of their lifetime, risking more separate and unequal schools.
The National Association of Charter School Authorizers held its annual conference in Atlanta last year. The group claims to support school choice, but as the influential, go-to think tank on retainer with the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, it’s looking more and more like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
NACSA favors making educational decisions based primarily on standardized test scores. That means decisions about which charter schools stay open are subject to a one-size-fits-all data point. That’s completely counter to the original and continuing intent of the school choice movement.
How could NACSA get this basic tenet of school choice so wrong? Look no further than those who are funding its efforts, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and many of the groups behind the Common Core standards.
NACSA’s president says his organization and teacher unions, the latter of which have spent millions opposing school choice, agree on how to proceed with charter schools. That same man, Greg Richmond, actively sowed the politics of race after the presidential election, using social media to link Republicans to the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis. If Richmond and NACSA are so interested in the impact of politicians on race relations, they should look at their own policies.
To better understand this issue, Cobb County Board of Education Member David Morgan researched and published a white paper on the staggering impact of NACSA’s proposed policies on Georgia students (The full paper can be found online at tinyurl.com/NACSAWhitePaper).
It’s clear this approach would force the closure of schools striving to improve while traditional public schools continue to operate in mediocrity. That would disproportionately harm Georgia’s African-American student population, which is twice as likely to attend a state-commissioned charter school targeted for potential closure. Remember, any closure plan is based primarily on standardized test scores and does not consider performance baselines or student progress.
Morgan’s research even showed that thriving charter schools face danger as public districts become emboldened to act under NACSA’s policy framework.
Let’s be clear. School choice is about making sure students have opportunities to learn and excel in the best possible setting for their needs. School choice exists because too many families could only use a system that greatly limits opportunities.
Parents, not bureaucrats, are best suited to make these decisions, and many have made the choice to move their kids into charter schools. Once again, politics is rearing its ugly head and seeking to limit those opportunities.
What’s the path forward? Parents, teachers, administrators and policymakers must figure out how to make charter schools work. We must understand that NACSA’s framework reliance on standardized test scores skews results. We can’t allow our minority population to be set back 70 years to a time of separate and unequal schools.
Some good can come from all of this, but it won’t occur at protests or riots. It will happen when we come together – liberals and conservatives, parents and students, bureaucrats and politicians – in the name of the greatest civil rights issue of our time – education.
(The writer is the president of Expose Liberal Charter School Turncoats, a free-market conservative nonprofit.)