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The week in school choice: Consent of the governed

On Saturday, the NAACP’s board approved its resolution calling for a moratorium on new charter schools.

Here’s a worthwhile response from Charles Cole, III:

I am a member of the NAACP and contrary to many other black folks; I do have a profound respect for them and what they are meant to stand for. My letter to you is not an entryway or access point for non-Blacks to use to attack the NAACP. My blackness just won’t allow that. Think of this as a family meeting where we have some things to address amongst ourselves. I am not interested in watching Black leaders eviscerate each other at the entertainment of other folks.

This Education Next forum on race and ed reform sheds light on the bigger question of whether the movement has credibility in the communities it serves. Here are some highlights.

Chris Stewart:

Conservatives think it’s a problem to include social justice issues in the reform movement, because it threatens to splinter coalitions by introducing divisive racial and social issues. But ground-level reformers who engage in communities have discovered an important truth: the next wave of school reform won’t succeed without bottom-up consent of the governed, and that isn’t possible without a transformative focus on social justice.

And the kicker:

If there is any real threat to education reform it isn’t the inclusion of advocates who believe deeply in social justice, it’s the inability of cultural fundamentalists to realize there is no future in their own supremacy.

Ryan J. Smith:

First, movements aren’t led by policies, they’re led by people—namely, the people most affected by the changes they are advocating for. We can’t afford to continue advocating on behalf of the students, educators, and families we serve. We must work with them. Low-income communities and communities of color have had a front row seat to the decades-long failures of our education systems. They have critical insights and opinions, and deserve the right to inform and set the agenda. The failure to do this has left reformers looking elitist at best, carpet bagging at worst.

Robert Pondiscio:

Closing the achievement gap will take decades. Closing the leadershipgap can be done this afternoon. All it takes is for the “white, privileged leaders” who signed the letter to recruit a person of color and step aside.

See also: Derrell Bradford on the black community’s school choice divide.

What’s innovation got to do with it?

Politicized and self-serving definitions of what constitutitues “innovation” in education have cropped up in the Massachusetts charter school debate.

Many education specialists say the subjective nature of the word “innovation” will always make it difficult to assess whether charter schools are truly education pioneers.

“Innovation is in the eye of the beholder,” said Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, which has done research on charter schools. But she added, “If people are looking for radically different approaches, I think that is a narrow definition of innovation.”

Charter school critic Jack Schneider makes some worthwhile points about innovation in charters, noting, for instance, that a regulatory climate that relies too heavily on test scores to measure schools can stifle new ideas. But he goes on to argue that allowing further charter growth is somehow at odds with promoting innovation, without really demonstrating why that’s the case.


The urgent moral case for replacing persistently failing public schools.

After threatening a strike, the Chicago teachers union wins a cap on charter schools at the bargaining table. This is a first.

An educator sounds off on the need to combat racism in all schools.

A deep dive into how KIPP helps its New Orleans graduates get through college, and the struggles they face along the way.

Three Los Angeles charter schools may face closure over hiring teachers from Turkey.

A report critiques tax credit scholarship policies.

Understanding the role of philanthropy in fueling the growth of charter schools. Recipients of philanthropic largesse are often members of the “cool kids club.”

The promise of Catholic school reform.

Clinton and Trump (sort of) respond to a Washington Post education questionnaire.

Teachers unions pour money into state campaigns — including opposition to charter school ballot initiatives.

What’s happening, state by state, with the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Why “the best and the brightest” should serve on charter school boards:

You don’t have to run for election. You don’t have to bargain with an antagonistic union. You have much greater say about budgets and personnel. And you don’t spend endless hours every week on school business.

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The Week in School Choice is our weekly compendium of news and notes from around the country. Sign up here to get it in your inbox, and send tips, links, suggestions, pushback and feedback to tpillow[at]sufs[dot]org.

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BY Travis Pillow

Travis Pillow is Director of Thought Leadership at Step Up For Students and editor of NextSteps. He lives in Sanford, Fla. with his wife and two children. A former Tallahassee statehouse reporter, he most recently worked at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, a research organization at Arizona State University, where he studied community-led learning innovation and school systems' responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. He can be reached at tpillow (at)