For Immediate Release
March 6, 2011
NC NAACP Statement Regarding Charter Schools and Vouchers
For More Information: Rev. Dr. William, J. Barber, II, 919-394-8137
Atty. Al McSurely, 919-389-2905
STOP THE LATEST EXTREMIST ATTACKS ON PUBLIC SCHOOLS
The North Carolina NAACP opposes using tax money for private academies; whether you call them vouchers or "tax credits," they take public money and pay people to abandon public schools. We are also against lifting the cap on the number of charter schools here. While some charter schools perform well for some students, they are not a universal solution for building strong school systems for all our students. Studies show that, on the whole, charter schools do not out-perform traditional public schools. They can also weaken school systems by "skimming off" middle-class students and ignoring the strength that comes through our diversity. People have a right to send their children to private academies but the taxpayers are under no obligation to pay for it, especially when it undermines public education.
Using tax money for private academies is not a new idea. In fact, people who support segregated schools have advocated tax-funded private academies since 1954 when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the NAACP in the historic Brown v Board of Education case, and declared: "Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."
Three months later, Gov. William Umstead set up a committee chaired by Thomas Pearsall, former N.C. House Speaker, whose mission was to circumvent the Brown decision. Gov. Umstead died suddenly, but his successor, Gov. Luther Hodges, created a smaller, all-white Pearsall Committee, which drafted plans disturbingly similar to those recently proposed by N.C. House Republicans. The 1955 Pearsall Plan offered "tuition grants" [vouchers] to fund private academies with public money for white parents whose children might be assigned to desegregated schools. The Pearsall scheme also empowered local school boards to bar African-American children from white schools by imposing endless bureaucratic hurdles for black parents.
Several white and black leaders and ministers challenged the legality and morality of the Pearsall Plan, but in 1956 the General Assembly adopted these segregationist schemes. A state-wide referendum supported the segregationists by a margin of five to one, a margin expanded by voter suppression efforts in black majority sections of the state.
North Carolina conservative leaders continued to urge evasion of desegregation by using tax dollars to send children to all-white private academies. I. Beverly Lake, Sr., segregationist firebrand and father of Republican gubernatorial candidate I. Beverly Lake, Jr., urged that the state subsidize segregated private schools. Jesse Helms wrote an editorial, "There is Another Way," urging that North Carolina abandon public education and pay private academy tuition so parents could send their children to all-white schools, eventually privatizing the public schools entirely.
North Carolina never had to pay private school tuition because the Pearsall scheme helped the state successfully evade compliance with Brown for 17 years. The courts ruled the Pearsall Plan unconstitutional in 1969, but it was not until the early 1970’s that the NAACP’s persistent legal and political efforts began to allow children of every race to attend the same schools, at least in our larger cities and towns. From a historical standpoint, our efforts to heal the scars of slavery and segregation have only just begun.
Sadly, the forces of division are now attempting to serve this sour, old wine in new bottles. Republican majority leader Paul Stam’s proposal, like the Pearsall Plan before it, seeks to divert public money to private academies, paying parents to withdraw their support from the public schools. Stam, whose "dream," he admits, is to do away with traditional public schools, currently proposes to use tax dollars for private academies. Republicans in the legislature also propose to repeal the laws against racial segregation in private schools and charter schools. School board members pushing "neighborhood schools" in Wilmington created 95 percent re-segregated schools, after which they petitioned their Republican legislators to "work to overturn" the measures in the Disadvantaged Students Supplemental Funding (DSSF) Law that allows the State Board of Education to withhold DSSF money from administrative units that practice "segregation of schools on the basis of race or socioeconomic status." North Carolina should reject all of these variations on the theme of funding private academies with public money or turning public schools into private academies, in effect, where the price of admission is the ability to pay a whopping mortgage, under the guise of "neighborhood schools."
Let us focus instead on helping all our public schools meet the higher expectations we have for all children. We should promote: diversity in all our classrooms; equal funding for all our schools; high-quality teachers; smaller classes; first-rate facilities for every child; school leadership teams for under-performing schools; a renewed focus on math, science, reading, and history; greater parental and community support; a laser-like focus on disparities in dropout, suspension, and graduation rates; early childhood funding for poor children.
We should also press for complete funding under the Leandro v. State of North Carolina (1997) mandate that the North Carolina Constitution guarantees "every child of this state an opportunity to receive a sound, basic education in our public schools," regardless of whether that child grows up in an affluent suburb or a rural crossroads; and that each child has a constitutional right to an education that gives them the reading, writing, speaking, mathematical, and scientific skills and knowledge to "enable the student to compete on an equal basis with others in future formal education or gainful employment in contemporary society." Many of our re-segregated schools, especially in impoverished rural areas, do not meet that constitutional requirement; in fact, Republican Judge Manning has called the educational system in many of our poor counties "educational genocide."
In light of all that remains to be done, we categorically reject any privatization schemes for our public schools while we advocate a state-wide campaign for diverse, high quality, constitutional schools for all our precious children.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, President, NC NAACP, National Board Member
Ms. Carolyn Coleman, 1st Vice President, NC NAACP, National Board Member
Ms. Amina Turner, Executive Director, NC NAACP
Dr. Timothy Tyson, History Chair, NC NAACP
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