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Key black school choice organization to close at the end of the year

The education reform movement will lose an important voice at the end of this year.

The Black Alliance for Educational Options sent a note to supporters this morning announcing it will “cease operations” after Dec. 31.

The group played a unique role in the school choice movement. It challenged charter and school voucher advocates to give black communities more control over the schools that educated their children. It reminded people that the fight for educational self-determination has been going on for centuries. It advocated accountability measures that proved controversial inside the school choice tent, from regulations in Louisiana’s voucher program to standardized testing for students who use scholarships to attend private schools.

Its leaders, like Howard Fuller, often demanded right-wing politicians target voucher programs at the most disadvantaged students. They helped rally support for the nation’s largest private school choice program when it faced an existential lawsuit, and contributed to the legal fight.

BAEO was one of the few social justice-oriented advocacy groups that supported Betsy DeVos during her confirmation as education secretary. She had long supported some of the group’s policy positions behind the scenes, bucking some of her more libertarian school choice allies.

In short, the organization helped build the sort of genuine, left-right coalitions that have been crucial to the school choice movement’s success.

Last year, the group launched a leadership competition to create the next iteration of BAEO. The organization decided not to partner with any of the finalists, leaving its future in question.

Here’s the beginning of BAEO’s announcement:

For nearly 20 years, the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) has been relentless in ensuring low-income and working-class Black parents are empowered to choose high-quality educational options for their children. It has been a long, arduous journey full of triumphs and setbacks.  Through it all, we strived to remain steadfast to our mission and purpose. But times have changed.

We know there is much more to accomplish in the education reform space, and that an unapologetically Black-led organization should be at the forefront of the ongoing struggle for high-quality schools. However, we have decided that it is time to cease operations at BAEO, and our sister organization, BAEO Action Fund (BAF), effective December 31, 2017.

We are incredibly proud of our legacy, including the thousands of parental choice champions created through our annual Symposia and other BAEO events; spin-off organizations created to continue our work in the community; legislation enacted, protected and expanded in states across the country; and elected officials we supported through BAF.

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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)