African-Americans support charter schools; NAACP does not

Patrick Gibbons

Last week several civil rights groups, like the Urban League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, attacked the concept of charter schools in a report (both groups have since distanced themselves from the report, but not necessarily from their attack on charter schools). But as it turns out, a majority of African-Americans now support charter schools.

Dr. Paul Peterson of Harvard University writes in the Wall Street Journal,

“Each year we provided respondents the same, neutral description of charter schools, followed by the question: “Do you support or oppose the formation of charter schools?” Those interviewed were also given the choice of saying they “neither support or oppose” charters.

Support for charters among African Americans rose to 49% in 2009, up from 42% in 2008. This year it leapt upward to no less than 64%. Among Hispanics support jumped to 47% in 2010, from 37% in 2008.

Opposition to charters is expressed by 14% of African-Americans and 21% of Hispanics. Twenty-three percent of African-Americans and 33% of Hispanics take a neutral position.

Among the public as a whole, charter supporters currently outnumber opponents by a margin of better than 2 to 1. Forty-four percent say they are in favor of charters, while 19% stand in opposition. Parents in general are even more supportive of charter schools: 51% like them, 15% don’t.”

So why are civil rights groups ignoring their constituents? Dr. Peterson concludes,

“By casting their lot firmly with teachers unions, the leadership of the NAACP and the Urban League hope to preserve their power and safeguard their traditional sources of financial support. Not only is this is a cynical strategy, it ignores where African-Americans and Hispanics are on the issue. Thankfully, the Obama administration is paying attention to the needs of low-income, minority communities and not to their purported leaders.”

For more on this subject, check out my new commentary, titled “Civil rights groups’ education proposal misses the mark.”