Finley: NAACP abandons poor kids

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Education is the great civil rights issue of the 21st century. And yet the nation’s largest civil rights group is seeking to deny poor and minority children access to quality schools.

Its resolution demanding a moratorium on privately run charter schools exposes the NAACP as more concerned with protecting Big Labor’s monopoly on public education dollars and its own political influence over school operations than it is in making sure disadvantaged students of all races have the same access to a decent education as their more affluent peers.

The NAACP resolution, adopted at its annual convention last month, claims that charters have contributed to the segregation of schools and have weak oversight that puts children at risk, and their expansion “mirror practices that led to the sub-prime mortgage disaster.”

The claims are pure bullwhacky. Nearly all charters operate on a lottery system, so they can’t give preference to one race over another, or one type of student over another. In terms of oversight, in Michigan at least, charters are the only schools that have been closed for poor academic performance; traditional public schools are allowed to continue to cheat students without consequence. And it’s laughable to suggest that charters exploit children when right here in Detroit public school principals stole money from the classrooms of black students and stuffed it into their own pockets.

Kids and their future are not what the NAACP is worried about. Urban school districts are major centers of African-American political power. And labor unions — school teachers — are huge financial supporters of the rights group.

So it’s politics , money and power, and not children.

Privately run charter schools, as the NAACP claims, do present a challenge for big city public school districts. And that’s a good thing.

Before charters, those school systems faced little pressure or incentive to improve. Those that have find they can compete very well with charters, which tend to avoid good performing school districts. Those that haven’t, notably Detroit, are in trouble.

But their trouble stems from their own failure. What’s driving the expansion of charters is parental demand. Poor parents want the same thing for their children as do rich parents: an education that sets them up for future success.

Parents who choose charters — in those places where they are free to choose — do so because they have not found that sort of education in the traditional public schools.

Arguing that banning charter expansion to allow traditional public schools time to stabilize and improve — an argument made unsuccessfully this year in Detroit — is asking the current generation of parents to sacrifice their children to the promise that the schools will better serve the next generation. What white, affluent parent would take that deal?

As a group committed to civil rights, the NAACP is obligated to be the worst enemy of schools that fail minority and poor children. Instead, it has become one of their biggest protectors.

Nolan Finley’s book “A Little Red Hen: A Collection of Columns from Detroit’s Conservative Voice” is available from Amazon, iBooks and Barnes & Noble Nook.