January 17, 2022 1:00 am

Dr. King’s Legacy: Do oppressive charter schools help fulfill his dream?

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NPE board member, Professor Yohuru Williams, discussed the contemporary meaning of Martin Luther King’s birthday during a recent interview here. When asked about the significance of the day, Yohuru responded that he viewed today as an opportunity to make “a yearlong promise to dedicate oneself to ideas that pivot around the eradication of poverty and racial justice in America.”

In present-day America, it is easy to lose faith that such a promise can be kept. However, if we are to honor Dr. King today, we must embrace the dedication and hope so well expressed in his words:

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. “

Our public schools are now under attack for teaching students about the “starless nights of racism” that are part of our history, as well as those great mornings when justice prevailed. NPE stands with the truth-tellers as they tirelessly educate a more tolerant, kinder, and wiser generation of children. That has always been a mission of public schools—to create better citizens in schools where all are welcome. We hold fast to that dream.


Four women recently came to the Network for Public Education to reveal their first-hand experience with the abuses of charter schools in their predominantly Black communities. The first three were board members or employees of a small charter school in Ohio controlled by Ron Packard’s newest for-profit, ACCEL. The fourth is a former KIPP student, teacher, and mother.

Both stories are must-reads.

You can find the first story in Valerie Strauss’ Answer Sheet in the Washington Post.

Here is an excerpt:

“Brady, a former lobbyist for School Choice Ohio and longtime supporter of charter schools, has soured on charter management organizations running schools. During a December 2021 interview … Brady expressed her concerns regarding where Ohio’s charter schools were going. “[For-profit management] is absolutely not in line with the supposed principles of school choice programs,” she said. “This is simply a cash grab using disadvantaged students as ATMs to launder public funds into the pockets of a private corporation.”

The second story is told by Frances Scarlen Martinez, who felt morally compelled to speak out against the oppressive practices of one of the largest charter chains in the country, KIPP.

You can read her chilling account here on Public Voices for Public Schools.

An excerpt:

“In my experience as a student, I was told how and when to speak, how to dress, where to look, how to nod, how to sit, and how to think from 7:25 am until 5 pm Monday through Friday and from 8-1 pm on Saturdays. Every aspect of our day was controlled, our compliance was routinely tested. At any given moment, the leader of our school would appear in our classroom, demanding to know, “What room is this?” To which we were expected to chant back in unison: “This is the room, that has the kids, that want to learn to read more books, to build a better tomorrow.” If one student did not comply, everyone else would have to repeat the chant again and again until they joined in or were taken away for an individual redirection. The point of this exercise was to keep us on our toes. Just like random cell checks in a prison keep the prisoners from ever feeling at ease, this power exercise was meant to remind us who was in control.”

Frances’ story is one of the many compelling stories featured on Public Voices for Public Schools, NPE Action’s new project that brings new, pro-equity voices forward. Sign up here to receive a new story each week.

Please share both of these compelling stories on social media.


A week ago, we asked conference registrants to let us know whether or not they would attend our conference scheduled for mid-March. We found that many are still hesitant, given the present Omnicron surge. Therefore, we are delaying the conference by several weeks to a mid-spring date instead.

If you are not registered for the conference, you can register here. If you have already registered, that registration remains. Thanks for your patience. We will get there!