Florida NAACP ponders role of charter schools

Friday night in Orlando, during its quarterly meeting, the Florida Conference of the NAACP held a hearing on charter schools.  The forum comes after the national organization passed a resolution calling for “a moratorium on charter school expansion and for the strengthening of oversight in governance and practice.”

Some parents consider charter schools a good option in communities with poorly performing public schools.

"I think you need more positive forums like that so they can understand how charter schools are making an impact in this community,” said Donyale McGhee, the principal of Somerset Academy, a charter school in North Lauderdale.

McGhee told the NAACP panel in Orlando that the majority of her students are black or Hispanic and 96.5 percent of her students graduated last year.

According to an official representing the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools at the hearing,  McGhee was the only person who works in a school every day to speak to the panel during the five-hour session. 
Charter schools receive state funding, but operate mostly independent of local school boards.

According to the NAACP, leaders are concerned that not all charter schools are providing a good alternative to public schools, it’s difficult for school boards to hold them accountable, and charters are funneling too much money away from public schools, especially in low-income areas. 

“When a state says we're not giving you an investment, we're just going to give it to charter schools, that's not fair, that's not equitable,” said Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers.

The forum in Orlando comes just days before a U.S. Senate panel is set to vote on President Donald Trump's pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.  DeVos is a Michigan billionaire and conservative activist known for her support of charter schools. 

"My advocacy and my orientation is really around parents and students and their choosing the right education for their children,” she told senators during a hearing on January 18.

The DeVos nomination is opposed by democrats in the senate and those, like Weingarten, who are calling for more accountability for charter schools. 

"She is already telling the world that she is going to have a different standard and that is completely inappropriate if you are the head of public education for the United States of America,” Weingarten said of the nominee.