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To be young, Black and working in the field of education

NICOLE SAHBAEE | 8/7/2017, 6:22 a.m.
Soon I will be closing my time as a summer intern at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and ...
Nicole Sahbaee Trice Edney Communications

Trice Edney Communications

Soon I will be closing my time as a summer intern at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and beginning my final undergraduate year at Howard University. I’ve learned more about public education at the NAPCS in two months than I have in the past year.

However, I do not consider myself pro-charter. I am also not pro-district.

Truthfully, I’ve heard many arguments that support both charter public schools and district schools – all with valid points and facts to back them up.

So, when I began to find myself truly confused, I did what I always do. I looked up what Black people are saying about this. Black opinion plus my own thoughts equals a solid case to base my life decisions on. While it may not be the most mathematical equation for success, it works for me. I googled “Black leaders charter schools” and felt a small sense of relief come over me because I was going to get an answer.

I wasn’t going to have to wonder anymore because the Black leaders in education would tell me what their point of view is, why they have it, where the research came from and what they are going to do about it.

As I began to read through the articles, I found topics about the NAACP and Black Lives Matter being pitted against Black leaders in education. I was pissed! So, two huge organizations that have Black prosperity at their core are at odds with Black education leaders and parents? I was so irritated that I closed the screen and went to deal with this confusion another day.

Weeks passed, and I continued to gain information. I read the letter that had been written and signed by 160 Black leaders in support of charters, I watched clips of the NAACP’s special hearings on charter schools and I researched teachers unions and their disdain for the charter movement. I turned over every rock I could find for some sort of answer.

Despite all the research and opinions, I still could not figure out who was on the right side of history. I could not look to Black leaders in this situation because they are consumed with the politics of the district vs. charter debate, just like many others in education.

This isn’t the first time I found disappointment with Black role models, but this is too important to ignore. Every second that is spent focusing on which school is better or what should be the dominant structure is doing a disservice to our children. Our children are the ones suffering without a quality education and are then chastised by society for not meeting “the bar.”

I get that money, politics and power are important, but we can’t afford to fight this fight with each other. We have no choice but to be unified. According to the Civil Rights Data Collection, Black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than White students. This is something we should be focusing on. If our children don’t make it, that not only affects us, but it is on us. The White school leaders that are trying to make change will be heartbroken if the years of work they put into improving public schools don’t pay off, but we will be crippled.