This is the moment in time when Black leaders must decide how committed they are—or are not—to the education of Black and Brown children. This week, ground zero of our education war is California but don’t be fooled—this evil is coming for all of us. If our Black leaders won’t stand up now, we know that their loyalty is not to us.
The tears of Black mothers throughout the generations have borne witness to abysmal educational outcomes for far too many Black youth who, despite infinite potential and dreams of a self-sufficient future, have been poorly served by an educational system that was never designed to serve them.
My soul is shook right now as that very system of dream-killing in California is doing everything it can to cripple and even kill the educational opportunities that are best serving Black children and most in demand by their parents.
How can it be that Black leaders, the people Black students and parents should be able to count on to defend their right to a safe and quality education, are painfully silent? And complicit? If Black leaders in California and across the nation are truly committed to the cause of civil rights, they have a moral obligation to break their silence and stand up for Black parents and families and students caught in the crosshairs of this status quo education war.
And don’t get it twisted—it is a war.
The package of legislation targeting California’s charter schools will do significant and long-term damage to the Black students attending California’s public schools. And the overall assault on charter schools in the Golden State is really a national assault on all charter schools—and for that matter, parental choice in education as a whole.
Our children and our families need ongoing access to school choice, but we can’t fight this status quo education war alone. We need Black leaders in decision-making roles in education to stand up with us and fight before it’s too late and the assault hits the shores of all the blue states where teachers unions own Democrats and those Democrats vote to keep Black and Brown children trapped in documented failure factories.
Most people don’t realize that the NAACP is no stranger to aligning with teachers unions and betraying its own people in their fight for educational freedom. I learned that painful fact a few years ago and the only word to adequately describe what I felt is betrayal.
But hope springs eternal, and three local chapters of the NAACP in California have had enough—in San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino. Each has put forth resolutions calling on the state body to “support all educational options for Black students that produce positive results” and for them to halt their call for a moratorium on charter schools. They want the national body to recognize the importance and value of parent choice and they’ve got a Black mom—and grandma—from Connecticut in me, cheering them on.
One of the villains in California’s anti-charter crusade is Kevin McCarty, an Assemblymember (D) from Sacramento who is also a member of the California Legislative Black Caucus. In addition to essentially calling for a ban on new charter schools (a clear pathway to opposing other education choice options), McCarty has refused to even meet with members of the civil rights community, including the three NAACP chapters who have submitted resolutions, the Urban League of his home district in Sacramento, and Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. He won’t even show them the respect of a meeting.
Mr. McCarty sure is channelling his best Bernie Sanders, climbing into bed with teachers unions and confirming for the Black community that he doesn’t care about their children’s education or future opportunities.
If ever there were a time for Black leaders around the nation to raise their voices, that time is now. The fight for educational freedom in California is much bigger than one state—it is a fight that demands Black leaders who have stayed on the sidelines of America’s educational apartheid to finally get in the game.
Just over 85% of Black students in California attend non-charter schools—75% of Black boys in California schools do not meet reading standards. Think McCarty or Bernie or any of the NAACP leadership would send their children to Castlemont High School in Oakland where 1% of students are proficient in math and reading? No, that’s not a typo. 99% of the students in that school do not read, write, or do math at grade level. Yet these influential hypocrites have no problem forcing parents in that school’s ZIP code—who are 93% Black and Brown—to attend a school that they would never accept for their own children. And while parents understandably plead for an escape hatch, these two union groupies are on the hunt for a stronger deadbolt to keep the kids inside.
They never talk about student outcomes. Or literacy. Or learning. They don’t care about results for other people’s children. They care about themselves—and that is not sitting well with Black parents—the ones whose votes they take for granted and have for generations.
NAACP chapters from all over the country should be rising up for the children. Black politicians, policymakers and leaders should be rising up for children.
Kamala Harris, where are you? Stacey Abrams, where are you? John Lewis, where are you? Children that look like you need you. Black parents need you.
You say you care about our children’s futures. It is high time that you prove it.
This piece first ran here at Education Post.
To read about Gwen Samuel, clic
Gwen Samuel is the founder and president of the Connecticut Parents Union. She is an advocate for the educational rights of all children to ensure that race, zip code and socio-economic status are not predictors of student success. A parent of two children in Connecticut Public Schools, she also is the founder of two volunteer organizations in Connecticut—State of Black CT Alliance and Meriden Kids Walk Safe Coalition: A Safe Routes to School Initiative. Ms. Samuel, along with other parents and educational advocates, successfully introduced the state’s “Parent Trigger” law, in the form of School Governance Councils, which allows parents to make recommendations that support turning around systemically low-performing schools. In recognition of her work, Parenting magazine selected Ms. Samuel as one of 51 mothers nationwide to represent Connecticut at the inaugural Mom Congress on Education and Learning Conference in Washington, D.C.