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The Wall Street Journal reports on thousands of black Harlem parents rallying against…the NAACP. Why? Because the NAACP has joined a lawsuit with the local teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers, to stop New York City from closing 22 of its worst schools. The article is currently gated, so here are some of the pertinent points.
[A]t the Academy for Collaborative Education, one of the Harlem schools that the city wants to close, only 3% of students were performing at grade level in English last year, and only 9% in math. At Columbus High School in the Bronx, another school slated for closure, the four-year graduation rate in 2009 was 40%, versus a citywide average of 63%, and less than 10% of special education students graduated on time.
The teachers union wants to keep these abysmal schools open to preserve jobs for their members. This is bad enough. But the union and NAACP also want to limit better educational options for low-income families who can’t afford private schools and can’t afford to move to an affluent neighborhood with decent public schools. The union knows that in a place like New York City, where space is at a premium, blocking charters from operating in public buildings will hamper charter growth.
We don’t need more proof that the NAACP has moved from civil rights underdog champion to indifferent protector of a broken status quo—an ironic tragedy for an institution now a banner carrier for attitudes it once attacked.
More importantly, this highlights how public education has become the next civil rights issue: because requiring poor and minority kids to attend local schools often traps them into bad schools. They can’t change districts because living elsewhere is more expensive, and they can’t pay for a better education because they have no money and the public funds available aren’t actually tied to specific children but to the institutions failing them.
Where education used to give kids a leg up, what often passes for education in these terrible schools might keep some unionized adults employed but promises their charges never can be.
Image by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.