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N.A.A.C.P. on Defensive for Suit Against Charter Schools - NYTimes.com

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June 10, 2011

N.A.A.C.P. on Defensive as Suit on Charter Schools Splits Group’s Supporters
By FERNANDA SANTOS

In some ways, it seems like a natural cause for the N.A.A.C.P.: students — many of them poor, most of them black — treated as second-class citizens when the public schools they attended had to share buildings with charter schools. A lawsuit filed last month by the N.A.A.C.P. and the United Federation of Teachers described children having to eat lunch so early it might as well be breakfast, and getting less exercise because gym hours were evenly divided between the schools despite big differences in their enrollment sizes. But black children have been major constituents of charter schools since their creation two decades ago. So when thousands of charter-school parents, students and advocates staged a rally on May 26 in Harlem, it was not so much to denounce the litigation as it was to criticize the involvement of the N.A.A.C.P. Since then, a war has broken out within the civil rights community in New York and across the country over the lawsuit against the city and the larger questions of how school choice helps or hurts minority students. A Facebook page titled N.A.A.C.P.: Don’t Divide Us, Unite Us has logged hundreds of followers and dozens of comments, and the two sides have traded barbs in the opinion pages of local newspapers, including a commentary by the schools chancellor, Dennis M. Walcott, in The Daily News on Thursday in which he wrote, “Let’s stop pretending this is about process technicalities or paint on the school walls or what time students eat lunch in the cafeteria.” What is it about, then? Both sides say it is, fundamentally, about improving the quality of the education that black and Latino children receive in public schools, but they differ profoundly on how to do so. For the N.A.A.C.P., though, the dispute has turned into a public referendum on its mission.

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is black. it is trying to protect. the political rhetoric advocating them generally revolves around the idea of providing better opportunities for poor. the lawsuit has upset that balance. who took Ms.” Benjamin Todd Jealous. forced to explain whose rights. minority children in inner cities. Jealous has been busy making amends since the organization’s state leader. on Defensive for Suit Against Charter Schools .P. In New York.C.A.com After joining the teachers’ union in the lawsuit. who have been among charter schools’ staunchest supporters.A. Many prominent black leaders. divided minorities for years. Now. had carefully navigated this divide. at 40 percent of the enrollment.A. made up the single largest group while blacks made up 30 percent. accused a woman of “doing the business of slave masters” by defending the charter school her daughter attends.P.” The question of school choice has. which other black politicians have denounced as selling out the public school system.nytimes.NYTimes. It did not help that the parent is Hispanic and Mr. “N.A. said in an interview. national president and chief executive of the N. It’s an intimate disparity we’re highlighting. While there are charter schools in all kinds of neighborhoods around the country.12/11/11 N. Cory A.C. Sixty percent of all New York City charter-school students were black and 31 percent were Hispanic in 2009-10. which seeks to keep 20 charter schools from opening or expanding in buildings shared with traditional public schools.. the most recent academic year for which statistics are available. maintaining its historic alliance with teachers’ unions while also supporting charter schools and school choice in some ways.A.A. prompting emotional and at times ugly comments from all corners.A.html?_r=… 2/4 .A.C.P.. Walcott. Another woman wrote on the Facebook page.C. Dukes. We just had no idea how much tension it would create. Hazel N. have been vocal backers not just of charters but also of using public money to provide vouchers for children to attend private schools. In traditional public schools. “It doesn’t help anybody if one kid has access to the library and the other one doesn’t. standing against many black religious leaders. a black Democratic state senator from Harlem. Dukes’s comment as a personal affront. including Newark’s mayor. the national organization has found itself on the defensive. has done everything he can to block the expansion of charters. Bill Perkins.com/2011/06/11/nyregion/naacp-on-defensive-for-suit-against-charter-schools. to some extent. why are you trying to take away a www. “We are in this fight for all the children. Booker. Latinos.P. The N. exactly. Mr.

A.” Mr. Rangel and Geoffrey Canada. The lawsuit. nothing but swinging doors separated a “five-star charter school. For Mr. said he was “deeply disappointed” that the N. speaking on the condition of anonymity because the negotiations are intended to be private.C. Nazario said. is taking is not the constructive role they’ve taken in the past. litigation seemed like the only option after years of complaints by the traditional public schools about the difficulties they faced in sharing buildings with charter schools.nytimes. Mr. in his commentary. president and chief executive of the Harlem Children’s Zone.P. said that in some cases. As part of the effort.” Several prominent black leaders in New York have been asked to help broker a settlement to the suit. Michael L. the most important elements of the mayor’s plan are providing competition and choice. on Defensive for Suit Against Charter Schools . was party to the suit.” Rather.com/2011/06/11/nyregion/naacp-on-defensive-for-suit-against-charter-schools. Hector Nazario. they must be rooted in fairness of opportunity. officials from the city’s Education Department and the teachers’ union toured some of the shared buildings at issue in the litigation. who is also on the board of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. said in an interview.12/11/11 N.A. comes down to a question of embracing some of the tenets of Mayor Michael R.P. Lomax.C.C.” Mr. one official said.” www. where there is one laptop for each student. he said.” “Equal opportunity for all?” Mr. including Representative Charles B. and a school of need.NYTimes.com valuable free public education from our children?” Mr. Jealous said that whatever they are. Walcott. president of the community education council representing District 4 in East Harlem and a plaintiff in the litigation.A. according to four people familiar with the discussions. Lomax.P. Jealous said. “Now.html?_r=… 3/4 . “we have everybody’s full attention.A. president and chief executive of the United Negro College Fund. “The role the N. Jealous said he did not necessarily oppose charter schools: “We’re open to ideas that push good education to all children.A. where 20 kids share one computer. which also seeks to block the city from closing 22 schools for poor performance. Bloomberg’s school reform plan. “It’s not happening.A.

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