By Mark Naison
The charter school “romance” among People of Color, which held strong for the past five years in New York City, diminishes every day in the face of revelations of fraud, abuse of students and parents/guardians, mistreatment of teachers and staff, and the support charters receive from wealthy financial interests linked to gentrification, speculation, and profiteering. Charters once represented hope for parents who confronted stagnant, inflexible public schools. Now, Black and Latino communities oppose them.
In New York City, the pendulum swung against the perception of charters as a solution to educational inequity. The public sees the charter school lobby as an undemocratic force. A similar sentiment shaped the results of the most recent mayoral election in Newark and can be seen in cities like Buffalo and Philadelphia. In both places, disillusioned Black educators and parents oppose charters foisted on the public by White profiteers.
Education activism — including opposition to charters — used to be the sole province of White progressives. Now, Black progressives are taking the lead. At BK Nation Education forums in New York, Jamaal Bowman and Zakiyah Ansari challenged the hedge-fund-sponsored charter lobby with the support of a growing number of parents of Color.
Based on recent education conferences, I expect that dynamic to spread. Leaders like Gus Morales, Jesse Hagopian, Brotha Jitu Shakeda Gaines, Tonya Bah, Barbara A. Nevergold, Denisha Jones, Ceresta Smith, and Jeff Canady gave pause to the notion that resistance to charter schools is a White phenomenon. Parents/guardians of charter-school exiles joined by teachers of Color pushed out of closed public schools constitute a growing force in education activism. Their voice cannot be ignored.