Kate Zernike, © 2016 New York Times News Service
With charter schools educating as many as half the students in some U.S. cities, they have been championed as a lifeline for poor black children stuck in failing traditional public schools.
But now the nation’s oldest and newest black civil rights organizations are calling for a moratorium on charter schools.
Their demands, and the outcry that has ensued, expose a divide among blacks that goes well beyond the now-familiar complaints about charters diverting money and attention from traditional public schools.
In separate conventions over the past month, the NAACP and the Movement for Black Lives, a group of 50 organizations assembled by Black Lives Matter, passed resolutions declaring that charter schools have exacerbated segregation, especially in the way they select and discipline students.
They portray charters as the pet project of foundations financed by white billionaires, and argue that the closing of traditional schools as students migrate to charters has disproportionately disrupted black communities.
Black leaders of groups that support charter schools have denounced the resolutions, saying they contradict both the NAACP’s mission of expanding opportunity and polls showing support for charters among black parents. The desire for integration, the charter school proponents say, cannot outweigh the urgent need to give some of the country’s poorest students a way out of underperforming schools.
“You’ve got thousands and thousands of poor black parents whose children are so much better off because these schools exist,” said Howard Fuller, a longtime civil rights activist and the founding president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, which encourages support among blacks for charters.
The debate about race and charters is long simmering. Black residents of cities like New Orleans, which has converted nearly all of its public schools to charters …