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Imposing Charters Not the Answer for Urban Communities

Dr. Andre Perry. Photo by  Bart Everson

Dr. Andre Perry. Photo by Bart Everson via Flickr.

The NAACP and the Black Lives Matter movement have both recently criticized the way some charter schools are run, highlighting their negative effects on black communities. Dr. Andre Perry, the former founding dean of urban education at Davenport University in Grand Rapids and the CEO of the Capitol One-University of New Orleans Charter Network, explains why some are coming to see the imposition of charter schools as harmful.

“The reason why black schools are not doing well is because black communities are not doing well,” Perry told Michigan Public Radio. “When you break up school districts, when you disrupt school boards, you are eroding black power.”

He added, “I think there’s been a disproportionate effort to apply charter schools to black communities instead of allowing black communities to reform themselves.”

If educational opportunities are truly worthwhile, they should be extended to all, but, Perry said, “You just don’t see this kind of effort being applied on white communities.”

It’s a pattern seen across the country, including here in Connecticut. In the spring of 2014, despite objections from members of the Bridgeport and Stamford communities and the cities’ elected boards of education, the state Board of Education nevertheless voted to impose new charter schools on the cities.

“There’s nothing innovative with this paternalistic type of reform,” Perry said.

Noting that he doesn’t think there’s necessarily anything inherently wrong with charter schools, Perry objects to the way they’ve been applied to black communities. While the governance structure of charters allows potential for bringing the schools closer to communities, Perry argues that the way charter school have been applied, “It literally upends black power. There’s a nefarious thread in the movement that specifically wants to break up districts.”

Perry said that education has erroneously been looked to as the answer to all that ails black communities. “We’ve put way too much weight on education and not addressed all of these other sectors that are really eroding black communities.

“Black people don’t necessarily need choice; they need power,” he said.

Listen to the entire interview with Perry, including his thoughts on how to authentically improve black schools and communities, here.

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