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Thousands in NY Protest NAACP on School Choice

WI Online Editor | 6/7/2011, 3:11 p.m.

The New York state chapter of the NAACP has teamed up with the local teachers union to file a lawsuit that will prevent the New York City Department of Education from closing almost two dozen of its worst schools.

But according to an excerpt from a June 4 article Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article, the lawsuit has ignited the ire of thousands of black parents and other protesters who have urged the nation's oldest civil rights organization withdraw from the suit.

The suit also seeks to keep the city from providing space to about 17 charter facilities to operate in buildings occupied by traditional public schools.

However, Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP chapter, has been unyielding, saying that critics of the lawsuit "can march and have rallies all day long. . . . We will not respond," according to the WSJ excerpt. It further states that one of the schools slated for closing - the Academy for Collaborative Education - had just 3 percent of students performing last year at grade level in English. In addition, only 9 percent of the students reportedly attained proficiency in math.

Furthermore, at Columbus High School in the Bronx which is targeted for closing, the four-year graduation rate in 2009 was 40 percent in comparison to a citywide average of 63 percent. The school has also had less than 10 percent of special education students to graduate on time, according to the excerpt.

While the teachers union has been accused of trying to save teachers' jobs by keeping the failing schools open, both the union and NAACP are being taken to task for wanting to limit better educational options for low-income families that are hard-pressed to afford private schools - or relocate to affluent neighborhoods with decent public schools, according to the excerpt.

A union official said this week that in accordance with an agreement hammered out by both sides, the city and teachers union have two weeks to prepare arguments in their battle over the school closures and charter school co-locations.