NAACP Suit Is Latest Salvo in Fight Over Schools
The lawsuit is ground zero in a battle splitting advocacy groups over whether charter schools can help our children succeed.
Education Department's Dennis Walcott (Getty Images)
The comment prompted Dennis Walcott, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, to respond in a June 9 Daily News op-ed. "First, it is disheartening that an individual who represents an organization I admire would equate me to a 'slave master,' " wrote Walcott, the former longtime head of the New York chapter of the Urban League. "Such rhetoric is disrespectful and in no way productive to discussions about our students' future."
New York City: The Latest Battleground
While Dukes refused to back down from her comments, Jealous sidestepped the issue in the June 8 conference call and seized the moment to clarify the organization's position on the lawsuit. He also touted the NAACP's involvement in education-reform efforts across the nation, including pushing for teacher-tenure reform in California and supporting the state's "parent trigger law," which allows parents to vote collectively to reform local schools. In addition, Jealous cited the organization's longtime support of a decades-old lawsuit in New Jersey with the goal of ensuring that all children are treated fairly and given access to a high-quality education.
In New York City, Jealous maintained, the battle has been one of escalation. "They [NAACP branch leaders] tried reasoning with school officials and the chancellor and got the door shut in their faces," he said. "Finally, after trying all school year to get traction, they said enough is enough and filed a lawsuit, figuring it would jar folks into action and force them to focus on these issues. Our hope, now that we have everybody's full attention, is that we can get this solved quickly. We are open to all options to settle the suit."
Meanwhile, New York City's Department of Education is gearing up for a battle. "Our number one priority is ensuring that we are providing all of our students with high quality educational options, so we are taking every precaution to ensure these new schools open in the fall and serve the families who have already enrolled," Walcott said in a prepared statement for The Root.
"We continue to believe the lawsuit brought by the UFT and NAACP is lacking in merit," Walcott continued, "and we will vigorously fight it in court -- but we will also take every step to continue adding high quality options and to protect our students against this purposeful attempt to spread chaos in our school system and hold children hostage in bad schools."
Lynette Holloway is a frequent contributor to The Root. The Chicago-based writer is a former New York Times reporter and associate editor for Ebony magazine. Follow her on Twitter.