Poor performing schools, relics of 20th-century neglect, ought to close. Charter schools, beacons of hope in many poor neighborhoods, should be encouraged.
This may seem like common sense. But for the teachers union and, regrettably, for the New York chapter of the NAACP, these ideas are heresy. That’s why they joined forces to sue the city when the Bloomberg administration sought to close 22 failing schools while opening 15 new charters in existing school buildings. Fortunately, common sense has prevailed. State Supreme Court Justice Paul G. Feinman recently ruled that the city had followed all proper procedures, and so he denied attempts by the union and the NAACP to stop the city from moving ahead with the closings. The union vows that it will not give up on the suit, which is hardly a surprise.
The saddest part of this spectacle was the NAACP’s presence in the court as an opponent of charter school reform. Charter schools serve—and serve well— predominately minority neighborhoods. Their importance will become only greater as the number of Catholic schools continues to decline, leaving many neighborhoods without an alternative to a failing public school. But the head of the New York chapter of the NAACP, Hazel Dukes, recently lashed out at an African-American parent of a charter school student. Ms. Dukes, who was a political laughingstock during her time as president of Off-Track Betting two decades ago, actually accused the parent of “doing the business of slave masters.”
That sort of language, that sort of mentality, speaks to the character of some (though not all) critics who will say anything and disparage anybody in defense of the failed status quo. Ms. Dukes argued that those who are working to bring quality education into poorly served neighborhoods are the moral equivalent of slave owners, and those parents who send their children to charter schools are complicit in this new form of enslavement.
Ms. Dukes has not been a credible figure in New York’s civic life for many years, with good reason. (In 1997, she admitted to embezzling $13,000 from an O.T.B. employee who was suffering from cancer.) But the teachers union remains a powerful force on behalf of the status quo. Its leaders should give up on this case, but they surely will not. They can’t help themselves. What a shame.