NAACP Hearing Reveals Charter Divide

Michelle Liu PhotoBlack students get a chance they deserve. Or black students get shortchanged by semi-private schools that drain traditional public schools of needed money.

Those two views were on display as the national debate over charter schools — and their impact on communities of color — roared into New Haven.

The occasion was a hearing at the Omni Hotel Saturday held by the Connecticut NAACP.

It was the first of seven such hearings planned across the country in response to a resolution passed in October by the national NAACP calling for a moratorium on new charter schools.

And it lasted four hours. With passionate testimony on both sides.

Debating the merits of these charter schools for minority students in particular, traditional public school advocates suggested that charter schools only deepen divides between and sap resources out of public schools in minority and low-income communities. Those on the pro-charter side argued that these alternatives to public schools provide viable options for the black, Latino and poor communities that need them the most.

The civil-rights group’s moratorium call has been controversial exposing two divergent strains of thought in the black community about the best direction for improving public schools.

Paul Bass PhotoMembers of the NAACP’s National Task Force for Quality Education, created alongside the resolution, heard testimony from teachers, parents, students and experts on both sides of the divide at the Omni Saturday. The hearing kicked off a process that will culminate in a set of recommendations from the task force.

The prevalence of charter schools in primarily urban areas with concentrated black and Latino populations makes this issue especially pertinent to the task force, said Connecticut NAACP President Scot X. Esdaile said.

Race has been a flashpoint at New Haven’s charter Amistad High School, where black students staged a walkout May 31 to protest the lack of black teachers. Read about that here, and the passionate debate it generated here. (The school organized some of those students to testify in favor of charters at the hearing.)

Michelle Liu PhotoIn his testimony at Saturday’s New Haven hearing, Steve Perry of Hartford pointed to wait lists into the hundreds at Connecticut’s Capital Preparatory charter schools, which he leads, as a marker of the demand for charters and their importance to parents.

Likewise, the right to choose, a central tenet in pro-charter arguments, surfaced as Perry made a comparison to private universities (for which students can still receive federal aid).

“If you had a student who got into Yale University, you’d probably tell them to go,” he said.

In Massachusetts, the people have spoken decisively against charter schools, said Jessica Tang, a teacher in Boston’s public schools and an organizer in that city’s teachers union. She pulled up the map on how the state voted on Nov. 8 for Question 2, a ballot question on whether the state board of education should be authorized to expand the cap on charter school expansion throughout the state. While 68 percent of voters voted “no,” the remaining 32 percent were overwhelmingly from the “whitest, wealthiest upper-class” communities, Tang said. On the other hand, in Boston alone, black and Latino communities like those in Roxbury voted against the question.

“The narrative that black and brown families want charter schools ... was completely proven untrue by voters’ rights,” Tang said.

Even a factoid —  the $11,000 allotted per student in a charter school in Connecticut —  took on different interpretations. Some said the money per student meant charters couldn’t be siphoning funds away from public schools, others said it put greater pressure for public schools to continue paying teachers, maintaining infrastructure and supporting special education students who don’t get admitted to charters.

Shonta Browdy, chair of the NAACP Greater Hartford branch’s education committee, claimed that local charter schools cherry-pick their students, holding onto troublemakers until Oct. 1 — the day on which a public school like those in Hartford submit head counts to the state for its yearly funding.

And on Oct. 2?

“They come in droves,” she said of lower-performing students pushed back into the public school system, to a chorus of incredulous cries in the audience.

Jeremiah Grace, the state director for the Northeast Charter Schools Network, argued that charter schools, regulated by the state, are just as “public” as traditional public schools, noting that the increased flexibility charters receive is matched with increased accountability.

Grace, like other pro-charter advocates, said that while many underperforming district schools continue to operate, charter schools “can, will and should be closed if it fails to perform academically or financially.

New Haven Board of Education member Ed Joyner (pictured) argued that it is inaccurate to say public school districts, like New Haven’s, don’t offer choice, citing themed magnet schools like the city’s Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School just a block away downtown. Students also have academic flexibility within schools, as well as a slew of co- and extracurricular options, whether that’s the orchestra or intramural football.

“You name it, we have it,” Joyner said, noting that these schools are modeled after schools in the South from Joyner’s childhood, “which were black and poor but strong and proud.”

Jennifer Alexander, CEO of the New Haven-based pro-charter advocacy group ConnCAN, decried the dichotomy set up by the hearing, pointing out that those who wished to testify had to sign up under a “pro-public” or “pro-charter” column. Instead, she spoke to the idea that the state’s new economy will increasingly require college educations of its workers, emphasizing the pluses of charter schools in preparing students for these new jobs, she said in an interview.

Other experts suggested the black-and-white nature of such a debate was taking energy and time away from more important issues at hand: James Comer (pictured), a professor of child psychiatry at Yale’s Child Study Center, said it was not the type of school, but rather the experience a school provides for a child’s development, that is the problem.

Jermaine Smith (pictured), an eighth-grader (and a budding orator) at Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Bridgeport, attributed his and his siblings’ college and career aspirations to his charter school education, saying he wanted to be “challenged in the classroom.”

“Now my brother, who transferred, who’s been in public school all his life, wanted to be a boxer. Which is fine! But now that he goes to a charter school, and it’s his second year —”

“I’m the boxing commissioner for the state of Connecticut,” Connecticut NAACP President Esdaile noted.

“And now he wants to be a mechanical engineer,” Smith finished, to snaps and claps.

Esdaile, also a member of the task force, called the hearing a “great beginning.” He maintained that the task force has no bias against charter schools in spite of the moratorium call. The task force’s next stop will be in Memphis on Jan. 7.

Esdaile, on his part, said he believes the solution may lie somewhere in the middle of the two poles. He looks forward to hearing more int he next seven cities.

“I want to get to the bottom of this,” Esdaile said. “I want to work to try to move the needle for public education for black students in this country.”

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 4, 2016  5:33pm

Charter school advocates are among the biggest scam artists in politics.Charters are the ideal deal, where the public takes all the risk and the corporations can’t lose. Anyone who believes that the Lords of Capital would finance anything that puts real power in the hands of poor parents, is in serious need of remedial education.

Glenn Ford

Give me a break.All Charter School are cash cows and are the inventions of rightwing corporations, There is zero oversight for taxpayer money doled out like candy. Charter schools will turn out to be the biggest and most expensive fraud ever perpetrated on the taxpayers.But there is a noble goal in mind, To undermine and destroy the teacher’s union and to line the pockets of people like this.These are the puppet masters who are behind the Charter School take over. Read this.

The Plot Against Public Education

How millionaires and billionaires are ruining our schools.By BOB HERBERT

The Faces of School Reform

Now the NAACP should have had Paul Buchheit at this forum.
New Layers of Dirt on Charter Schools
Submitted by Paul Buchheit

Despite ever mounting evidence to the contrary, corporate media and corporate-bought politicians continue to proclaim the superiority of charter schools. Meanwhile, “nearly 2,500 charter schools closed their doors from 2001 to 2013, leaving over a quarter million kids temporarily without a school.” The New Orleans school privatization experiment has clearly failed, as has Detroit. Yet, the charter myth persists, backed by big money and lies.

Part One.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 4, 2016  5:57pm

Part Two.

Steve Perry testifies at the MAACP hearing.

If I am not mistaked.Is this the same Steve Perry who said The only way to lose a fight is to stop fighting. All this did was piss me off. It’s so on. Strap up, there will be head injuries,” Steve Perry, the top administrator at Capital Preparatory Magnet School, tweeted Wednesday.Is this the same Steve Perry who He went as far as to say, “we need to call out the roaches” when referring to teachers unions.

Esdaile, on his part, said he believes the solution may lie somewhere in the middle of the two poles. He looks forward to hearing more int he next seven cities.“I want to get to the bottom of this,” Esdaile said. “I want to work to try to move the needle for public education for black students in this country.”

The NAACP needs to get to the bottom of this and find what happen with this.

Criminal Convictions Of Charter Schools Group’s CEO Raise Questions, Officials Say.

More Federal Subpoenas In Hartford Charter School Probe

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 4, 2016  6:07pm

Jeremiah Grace, the state director for the Northeast Charter Schools Network, argued that charter schools, regulated by the state, are just as “public” as traditional public schools, noting that the increased flexibility charters receive is matched with increased accountability.

Sorry. NLRB: Charter Schools Are Private Corporations, Not Public Schools

August 31, 2016

In its recent decisions, both issued Aug. 24, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Hyde Leadership Charter School in Brooklyn and the Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School are — like other government contractors — private corporations that receive taxpayer dollars. In the New York case, for example, the board found that even though state law describes charter schools as existing “within the public school system,” the schools were not directly established by a government entity and the people who administer them are not accountable to public officials or to voters.

Why judges say charters are NOT public schools— students and parents should be nervous.

posted by: GroveStreet on December 5, 2016  8:01am

ConnCAN is in bed with Achievement First and it is laughable that its leader decries a divide. ConnCAN has done nothing but create a divide. ConnCAN just doesn’t like opposition to its propaganda. What does it do if not try to get attention with its one-sided perspective?

posted by: robn on December 5, 2016  8:01am

Hypocrisy. Parents begged for the new Amistad to give their underperforming kids structure and then passively let their gradeschool children stage a walkout protesting the color of their teachers and the sternness of the program; the first irrelevant, the second what they lacked in prior years and now wholly ineffective due to lackadaisical parents.
Parents; be parents so teachers can do their job.

posted by: Brutus2011 on December 5, 2016  9:50am

Here is how I see things.

1. Charter schools (with the notable exception of New Haven’s Common Ground High School which is a true community school outside of New Haven Public School district) are private entities receiving public funding. This means that those who have a financial stake in charter schools receive revenue or income from public coffers. Necessarily, this means that whatever money is allocated to charter schools (again, the notable exception of CGHS) is taken away from public schools.

2. Public school districts are not without fault in this debacle. Public school administration is vastly overpopulated and over budgeted. For proof, check municipal budgets and public school administrator union contracts, including salaries and pensions.

What has happened is that the private sector has noticed that those who manage public schools are receiving high salaries and even higher pensions. The private equity boys and girls want in on the action especially as lucrative, and don’t forget renewable every year, revenue streams are becoming more and more scarce.

It’s all about politics and money. Our so-called leaders, both secular and sacred, are in it for the salaries, pensions, and revenue streams.

Look around. How long has NHPS and the BOE kicked the achievement can down the road?

Not years, but decades!

There is no need for a large administrative population in public schools. Everyone needs to be on the front lines. And, salaries should be equalized. Of course, we need a superintendent and several others but the majority of business functions, as opposed to curriculum matters, can be handled by business folks and assistants for considerably less than six figure salaries.

However, those in power and control will not let go of their economic windfall without a fight.

After the way a billionaire who ran as a populist conned half the country, it is no wonder that the citizenry keeps listening to both public school and charter school charlatans distract

posted by: westville man on December 5, 2016  11:17am

Brutus- spot on as usual.  Thanks for your insight into our educational system.

Robn- another poor “spin job” as to the reasons for the walkout and the parent’s ‘failure’ to prevent it.  I have spoken to WHITE teachers at the school who felt it was necessary for the walkout. The reasons are very different than you imagination thinks.  To see if I’m right,  let’s see how many teachers of color Amistad recently hired actually stay there beyond year 1-  they are experiencing the same “soft” racism the students are. And the powers that be in the school could care less…..

posted by: robn on December 5, 2016  12:53pm


When I was in grade school, if any child dared to walk out on a teacher much less talk back to them, their parents would paint their wagon red. Parental complicity in this event is absolutely the worst and most irresponsible I’ve ever seen reported in New Haven. No excuses.

posted by: Bradley on December 5, 2016  1:33pm

I am agnostic on charters. But I do find it interesting that few white New Haveners send their kids to charters other than Common Ground.

posted by: theNEWnewhaven on December 5, 2016  1:41pm

New Haven has MANY options for students.

We clearly have issues at schools in this city but we also have AMAZING programs that our students can take part in at almost every school.

The General Class population vs. the AP Class population at Hillhouse and Cross might as well be at different schools. You could look at both of these schools as an issue when your child starts but they will be very successful if the structure at home is there and they stay motivated.

Freshman Year students who has a drive coming in from Middle School can start in an honors program and work their way up to AP classes as early as junior year. Taking on COLLEGE CREDIT their junior year sounds GREAT to me!

Let’s not deny that charter schools may seem amazing. I get it.

In the end, it’s up to the child and the parents to be successful wherever the family ends up.

posted by: westville man on December 5, 2016  2:58pm

Robn- like i said, your “spin” includes an example of you when you were in grade school.  This was at a high school.  Why obfuscate simple facts?

posted by: Face2Face on December 5, 2016  3:28pm

OMG!!! Please watch the video at the 1:25:35 mark. Gary Highsmith gave an outstanding presentation in defense of transitional public schools! He made a very strong case for why the NAACP should not support the further expansion of Charter Schools.  The areas he discussed were:
1) Charter Finance
2) Charter Discipline
3) Charter Performance
4) Charter Racial Segregation

It is interesting that the NHI did not highlight his presentation (which was filled with evidence based on research). However,  they did highlight pro charter school advocate- Steve Perry.

posted by: robn on December 5, 2016  4:42pm


“Paint your wagon red” is colloquial for discipline, not neccesarily corporeal. Its applicable to high school students as well as grammer school students. That’s why young people are under the legal guardianship of parents until they’re 18.

posted by: Face2Face on December 5, 2016  5:26pm

....traditional public schools.

posted by: ElmCityVoice on December 5, 2016  5:30pm

Thank you for your comments Face2face. I also don’t know why Gary Highsmith’s informative presentation was not mentioneed.

(Ed.: There was no conspiracy or intention to exclude Gary. The hearing ran for four hours. Our reporter couldn’t quote everybody or most people. She chose some representative remarks from a small sampling of speakers from both sides. Just as there was no intention or personal conspiracy to exclude the other 90 percent of speakers who weren’t quoted. We included the full video of the event with all speeches.  I looked at the video, which includes all the speakers, and as usual Gary has a lot of interesting and worthwhile things to say.)

posted by: HhE on December 5, 2016  9:49pm

Charter Schools are public schools like private prisons are public prisons; taking public money to perform a public function.  Well said robn and Brutus2011.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 5, 2016  11:09pm

For all you pro Charter School People.Would you agree to this act.

The Charter Schools Act

STUDENT RIGHTS – Charter schools MUST be required to retain Special Ed and ELL students. No longer push out, counsel out or expel them out of the school.

PARENT RIGHTS – Every charter school board MUST have a parent board member who is the President of the school’s independent parent association.

BILL OF RIGHTS – There MUST be a universal Parents Bill of Rights and Students Bill of Rights for charter schools.

INDEPENDENT PARENTS ASSOCIATION – Every charter school MUST be required to have an independent parents association.

ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY – Charter school board members and employees MUST be held to rigorous financial disclosure requirements and conflict of interest prohibitions as all other organizations receiving public money. There MUST be more oversight of Founding Boards. Board members MUST NOT be allowed to be permanent trustees. All employees (principals, directors, staff) MUST not be allowed to serve on the board. All schools must be audited by the State Comptroller.

CHARTER CONTRACT & BY-LAWS – Every charter school MUST be required to post their charter and by-laws online to increase accountability and transparency in charter schools and their governing boards. Every board meeting MUST be held at the school.

STATE RECEIVERSHIP – The state MUST have the authority to take over a charter school and re-constitute the board of trustees.

MANAGEMENT ORGANIZATIONS – For Profit Management organizations MUST NOT be allowed to manage charters. Public money should be spent on public students.

COMPLAINT & GRIEVANCE PROCESS – The state MUST develop a formal complaint and grievance process that includes tracking and resolving issues within 30 days.

TEACHER RIGHTS & PROTECTIONS – Teachers in charter

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 5, 2016  11:31pm

posted by: HhE on December 5, 2016 9:49pm

Charter Schools are public schools like private prisons are public prisons; taking public money to perform a public function.  Well said robn and Brutus2011.

Charter Schools and Private Prisons are not public.Charter School Teachers are not part of the public retirement system.Same with the officers who work in the private prisons.look at Academi which use to be Blackwater Mercs.made approximately $92 million contract for State Department Back in July 2004, Blackwater was hired by the U.S. State Department under the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Worldwide Personal Protective Services (WPPS) umbrella contract, along with DynCorp International and Triple Canopy, Inc. for protective services in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Israel.

posted by: HhE on December 6, 2016  9:01am

As teachers often say, I guess I was not clear.  Just as private prisons are for profit businesses that take public money to perform a public function, with disastrous results, charter schools are “public” in that they take public money to perform a public function.  In their defense, not all charter schools are for profit, and a few charter schools actually do a good job of it.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 6, 2016  10:35am


Waste Management perform a public function by picking up garbage for the major of cities and states.But they are not public.Just because a company does get public money.It does not make them public.

posted by: HhE on December 6, 2016  12:40pm

Again, I must not have been clear, my position has always been, the claim charters schools are public schools because they receive public money to perform a public function is false.  I believe their adherents claim they are public schools in order to normalize their role and status.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 6, 2016  2:14pm

posted by: HhE on December 6, 2016 12:40pm

Again, I must not have been clear, my position has always been, the claim charters schools are public schools because they receive public money to perform a public function is false.  I believe their adherents claim they are public schools in order to normalize their role and status.

I agree.In fact Charter Schools like Common Ground High School are public Charter Schools due to the fact they started
with in the public school System.

posted by: vpaul on December 7, 2016  9:52am

It’s about time there was a public airing of the opposition to expansion of charter schools. How can profit-seekers perform needed public functions without cutting corners and disregarding those who need the most help and expenditure of resources?