"Separate and Unequal: Is Still Wrong”
By Hazel Dukes, President, NAACP New York State Conference
When the NAACP took the lead in pursuing Brown v. Board of Education more than half a century ago, we had one goal in mind - to end the
policies that created separate and unequal schools in too many places across the United States, and to help ensure that all children had equal access to a quality public education.
That same determination is behind our recent lawsuits against the New York City Board of Education to stop its wholesale closing of "failing"
schools and the public favoritism it is showing the small number of students in charter schools, even as the system falls short of serving the real needs of the more than one million students in our regular public schools.
We oppose the Board of Education's current school closing policy for one simple reason - it's nothing more than a gimmick. The truth is that the
schools marked for closure are institutions where the administration has concentrated its neediest students - those who are overage, require the
most help in English language training or special education. It then fails to provide the resources these schools need to succeed.
When these schools then "fail," the Board of Education replaces them with new small schools that don't take the same percentage of the most
challenging students. Where do such struggling students go? To the next school that in a few years the Board of will try to close.
It's nothing more than a shell game, and it has got to stop.
Our lawsuit also challenges the Board of Education's policy that effectively makes charter school students more important than students
in the regular schools that share space with the charters. Despite state law that mandates that both schools have equitable access to
classrooms and shared facilities like auditoriums, gyms and libraries in the building, the Panel for Educational Policy has time and again approved plans that give charter school students more time and access than the public school students receive.
Why should students at Jamaica High School have to deal with broken blackboards while new charter schools in the same building have
state-of-the-art smart boards? How is it that students from the Excel Explore Charter School in Brooklyn get more time in the PS114 playground
than the PS114 student body - a group three times larger? Why should public school students have to eat lunch at 10:15 a.m. so that charter
school students can use the lunchroom at noon?
The NAACP does not oppose charter schools. But we oppose the creation of a new form of two-tier school system - one for the lucky few and
another for the vast majority of students. A quality education should available for every child, not just the ones whose families win the
equivalent of educational Lotto.
Last year we joined with parents, elected officials and teachers in a previous lawsuit against the city's policy of closing schools. The administration and its allies loudly claimed that our legal position had no merit, but six judges at the trial and appellate levels unanimously supported our charges that the Board of Education had clearly violated state law.
Mayor Bloomberg , the Department of Education, and opponents of public education may try to pit parent against parent and neighbor against
neighbor. But this attempt to belittle our concerns and divide our community won't be successful. The NAACP has been in the forefront of
the battle to improve the education of our children, and we will not back down, this time or ever.