Equity & Diversity

Daughter of Brown v. Board Plaintiff Asks NAACP to Drop Call for Charter Ban

By Arianna Prothero — September 22, 2016 2 min read
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Cheryl Brown Henderson, the youngest daughter of the named plaintiff in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case which ended legally-sanctioned school segregation, has signed a letter calling on the National Association for the Advancement of Colored people to reject a moratorium on charter schools proposed by its members.

Two charter school advocacy groups, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the Black Alliance for Educational Options, organized a group of 160 black educators, advocates, lawmakers, and religious leaders—including Henderson—to sign the letter, which was sent to the NAACP Wednesday morning. The national board of the NAACP is expected to decide on whether to approve the resolution in October.

Henderson’s father, Oliver L. Brown, was among the group of black parents in Topeka, Kansas, who became plaintiffs in the NAACP’s lawsuit that ultimately led to the U.S. Supreme Court overturning racial segregation in public schools in 1954.

Here’s the full letter:

Henderson, who founded the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research, recently spoke with Education Week about the ongoing impact of the Brown decision:

Earlier this summer, members of the NAACP approved a proposal to call for a moratorium on new charter schools. The members cited concerns over discipline and segregation within charter schools, among many other issues.

Having one of the nation’s most powerful and prominent civil rights organizations say that charter schools are bad for African-American students and should not be allowed to expand has been a blow to the charter movement and exposed a rift in opinion among African- Americans on charter schools. (I wrote fairly extensively on that topic in this story here). A separate coalition of civil rights groups, including Black Lives Matter, issued a separate call to halt the spread of charter schools for many of the same reasons cited by NAACP members.

Along with the letter, the Black Alliance for Educational Options and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, are also launching a PR campaign to counter what’s been a tough stretch of publicity. Called “ChartersWork,” the effort will “focus on elevating Black voices and stakeholders from the civil rights and charter communities, dispelling myths and putting the focus of this conversation back on what works for children,” according to a joint press release put out by the two pro-charter groups. No specifics, yet, on what, exactly, that will include.

Charter school advocates have been playing some defense in recent months. After comedian John Oliver devoted his show “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” to issues of fraud in the charter sector, the Center on Education reform launched a video contest called “Hey John Oliver, Back Off My Charter School.”

The prize for the video that best highlights how charter schools have helped families, teachers and communities, will get $100,000.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.