NAACP’s Attempt at Nuance Leaves Much to be Desired

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By Jacqueline Cooper, President, Black Alliance for Educational Options

The NAACP released its much-hyped, and dare I say, now much maligned, report on “Education Quality” last month to mixed reviews. What’s not so “mixed” is that the organization is once again taking aim at charter schools across the country. The report claims to be “speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves” and calling for “stronger charter school accountability measures.”

I thought this story was over and done with last year when the NAACP heard from parental choice groups like the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and others when we made our way to their national board meeting to pushed back against the civil rights group’s call for an ill-advised moratorium on new charter schools and charter school expansion. Supporters even spoke out in favor of greater transparency and accountability for all public schools—charter and traditional district—that serve our children.

And while the report acknowledges many of the shared concerns we have with the effectiveness of the public education system, the report still calls for, what is now, a 10-year ban on charter schools and placing existing charter schools under the control of traditional school districts. This shows an inherited bias among some in the organization that they are more interested in pursuing bad education policies instead of scaling up what’s working well for our children. It’s hard to see how our children will win with such a subjective view of education choice.  

The NAACP says it “has always advocated for quality education of African American children as the gateway to economic prosperity and to become fully contributing citizens of society.” If this were true then why aren’t they fighting for Black families to have more high-quality education options, not less? Why aren’t they fighting for Black families to have greater access to excellent teachers, curriculum, administrators, and school staff, not fewer? And why aren’t they fighting for Black families to receive the same quality education as their peers across town, and not second-rate instruction?

The NAACP didn’t even acknowledge in its report new data on college completion that showed low-income students of color from cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and Newark who graduate from top charter networks, earn four-year degrees at rates up to five times higher than their counterparts in traditional public schools. Yet they want you to think charter schools are the real problem.

Well, one thing is clear: those of us on the front lines fighting for low-income and working-class Black families won’t be fooled by a one-sided report that offers limited solutions for our children.  That’s why we are urging all charter advocates to be more vigilant now than ever as the NAACP pushes model legislation to change state laws to stop new charter schools. Up until now they’ve been all talk and no action. Now is the time to fight back and double down on our own “model legislation” to bring more education options to families across the country. BAEO is ready for this fight.

So, NAACP: Black families deserve better from your organization if we’re ever going to, as you put it, “become fully contributing citizens of society.”

Jacqueline Cooper is the President of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, one of America’s preeminent nonprofit education advocacy organizations dedicated to increasing access to high-quality education options for low-income and working-class Black families. As BAEO’s president, Cooper leads a national executive leadership team in implementing the organization’s mission, strategic goals, and vision.

Cooper previously served as BAEO’s Interim President and as Chief of Staff. She was responsible for the central coordination of staff activities and ensuring organizational alignment with the strategic priorities of the board. As a key member of BAEO's executive leadership team, she supported the organization in achieving its goals and objectives through improving performance management and talent development; eliminating barriers to coordination, cooperation, and collaboration; and stewarding the organization's resources to promote efficiency and cost management.

Cooper arrived at BAEO in 2009 as Director of Strategic Initiatives. In this position, she designed and implemented a management system that clarified strategy, optimized data, achieved vertical and horizontal alignment and linked strategy to operations. Most notably, Cooper directed BAEO's Annual Symposium, the largest gathering of Black education reform supporters in the nation.

Prior to BAEO, Cooper worked for 11 years at JP Morgan Chase. In her last position as Vice President and Business Manager in Global Syndicated Finance, she managed staffing, logistical needs and the performance review process for the investment bank's largest department. Cooper also owned and operated four elite "Shining Star" Curves franchises in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Cooper earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Bryn Mawr College and a M.B.A. in finance and accounting from New York University's Stern School of Business. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Jack and Jill of America, Inc. Cooper resides in New Jersey with her husband and daughter.