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Op-Ed: Request to the NAACP — No Moratorium on New Charter Schools

My sons have been transformed by their experiences in charter schools. Isn’t that exactly what the NAACP would want?

denice hicks
Denice Hicks

The NAACP has an important decision to make on Saturday, and as the mother of two black sons, I hope they consider my story. 

Twenty years ago, as a desperate mother watching my then nine-year old son get in trouble at school, I had to beg my son’s teachers to assign homework. He was brilliant, but bored. He became very disruptive in class, and would leave class. I knew that I could very easily lose him to the streets as so many other mothers have lost their sons.

There were other likeminded parents who shared the same concerns I had as a parent with my son’s school. We were fed up with the current system, so we became founders of a charter school called North Star Academy, now part of the Uncommon Schools network of urban charter schools that are ensuring that kids graduate from college at quadruple the rate of other urban schools.

Back in 1997 when our school started, demand was so high that even though I was a founder, my son didn’t get into the first fifth-grade class. Instead, our name was called off the waiting list for sixth grade the following year. I won’t lie — he had a tough time adjusting. It’s hard to go from a school where it’s chaotic and you run around the hallways, to a school where much more is expected of you.

My son had an IEP (individualized education plan) because of his behavioral issues. But because of the staff’s compassion and love he made it through. Every single adult in that building cared about my child and made sure that he was learning. They were instrumental in getting the right resources for him and showed love every step of the way. Eventually his IEP was removed.  

In a city where few boys go to college, my son graduated from college and is now a police officer serving his community. I don’t think that would have happened without North Star. And now my youngest, my 13-year old son, is at North Star. He is thriving.  

The NAACP on Saturday may vote to call for a moratorium on all new charter schools; their rationale is that some charter schools aren’t good. I would agree that not all charter schools are good. But that’s no reason to try to stop black parents from choosing great charter schools for their kids. There are some police officers who don’t do the right thing — no one is suggesting wiping out the entire police force.   The NAACP is supposed to stand for low-income families and help them rise above circumstances.

For millions of children across the country, charter schools are doing just that. I used to look at them as being in our corner and helping our people, but coming out against charter schools is hurtful to the millions of black families who have not only made this choice for our children — but have seen the effects our choice have on their futures.  

The NAACP’s position means they want me to go backwards instead of forward.  I chose the right charter school for my family and they never turned their back on us. On Saturday, I’m hoping the NAACP doesn’t either.

Denice Hicks is a parent advocate and a Newark mother of four, one of which attends Uncommon Schools' North Star Academy in Newark.

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