We need our civil rights groups to not only embrace school reform, but to embrace the idea that parents and communities should be at the head of the table of decision-making in education. The NAACP’s latest agenda embraces none of this. While I will support the NAACP’s efforts on a holistic level, its agenda is too generic. It still gives the impression that only educators and politicians know what is best for our communities and our children.
Where in the NAACP’s agenda is the language that foster real family and community empowerment in making decisions that affect our children? This is important because far too often, teachers, administrators, and political leaders decide to put our children into unsafe and low-performing schools — and yet don’t have their own sons or daughters attending them.
Where is the language that recognizes that parents have the legal and moral right to choose the best schools that fit their children’s needs? Thanks to school residency laws and other forms of Zip Code Education policies, parents — especially and most often, black, Latino, and the poor — are arrested for choosing safe, high-quality schools for their kids.
The NAACP doesn’t seem to recognize the racist origins of many school residency laws. In Connecticut, the state’s Zip Code Education policies derive from the 1833 “Black Law” that prevented young black women from crossing state lines to attend a school run by famed educator Prudence Crandall, which what was at the time, the country’s only integrated school.
While extending school hours sounds great, the NAACP doesn’t dig into how this will work. Extended school hours without schools and districts taking responsibility for finances or personnel (and without communities and families holding schools accountable) only gives schools more time to maintain suspension and expulsion practices that lead young black men and women (along with other children of color) into the school-to-prison pipeline.
The biggest problem with the NAACP’s agenda is that it only thinks that teachers are the only stakeholders in education that matters, at the exclusion of families and communities. It only sees mothers and fathers in a support role instead of as being equal partners in student success. Everyone, including the NAACP, should be working to provide high-quality training and information for families and communities in order to be real partners in education. And should realize that families are the most-important partners and decision-makers. Because decisions in schools ultimately affect our children.