New York City has become the latest battleground in the national fight for education equality.
In some schools, hallways serve as a stark dividing line. Classrooms with peeling paint and insufficient resources sit on one side, while new computers, smartboards and up-to-date textbooks live on the other. One group of students will be taught in hallways and basements while others under the same roof make use of fully functional classrooms.
New York schools have increasingly co-located charter schools inside existing public schools as a cost-cutting measure. Handled improperly, co-locations can lead to disparities, division and tension among students, which can impede learning.
In many instances, traditional students are forced into shorter playground periods than their charter school counterparts, or served lunch at 10 am so that charter students can eat at noon. The inequity could not be more glaring. And similar proposals are being considered in other states and counties nationwide.
Throughout our history, the NAACP has fought for equal educational opportunities for all Americans. When we have seen inequality in school districts from Los Angeles, California to Topeka, Kansas, we have never hesitated to fight for what is right. Today the fight continues in the nation's largest school district.
Last month, after a year of attempts to negotiate with the New York City Department of Education to correct these inequalities after they lost to us in court, the NAACP was forced to go to court again to compel them to comply with state law.
Our return to court has triggered a smear campaign against the NAACP.
In recent days we have faced a coordinated media attack backed by funds from right-wing opponents of traditional public schools. Unable to dispute the facts of the case, they've chosen to cast aspersions on the NAACP, to question our motivations, and to sling mud at our legacy.
This is a tactic meant to silence the NAACP, but with your help, we will not be silenced.
The NAACP will always work for the day when all students can access high-quality public education. We will not tolerate the neglect of the hundreds of thousands of families depending on traditional public schools, nor will we stand by as public schools are illegally closed, communities are ignored in defiance of the law and student success is left to chance.
And we will never be silenced by attacks on our reputation.
The NAACP has always believed that educating children in a separate and unequal system that provides a quality education to the lucky few at the expense of the many is the wrong kind of education, and we will continue to fight, as we always have, for equal opportunity for all.
You can help shed light on this inequality by signing the NAACP petition today and supporting New York City students.
Follow Benjamin Todd Jealous on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BenJealous