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Open Letter to the NAACP
Open Letter to the CEO and Board of Directors of the NAACP
(National Association for the Advancement of Colored People)
August 6, 2003
On June 28, 2003 a two-thirds majority of active members of the Minneapolis NAACP branch passed a motion to instruct the branch president to take no steps toward opening any "Parent Information Centers" and to return the $152,400 (plus interest) he received from the Minnesota Department of Education to set up two Parent Information Centers due to:
1) A conflict of interest. The NAACP has a duty to serve as an advocate for students it represented in an educational adequacy lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Education. The NAACP has no credibility as a representative of the plaintiffs when it is being paid by and placed under the supervision of the defendant, the Minnesota Department of Education;
2) The failure of the Minneapolis NAACP branch to serve as an advocate for students it represented in the educational adequacy lawsuit since 1999. The lawsuit was settled in 2000.
The NAACP Parent Information Centers, a component of "Minnesota's Voluntary School Choice Project," are funded by a federal "No child left behind" grant. The text of the grant proposal, dated August 16, 2002, indicates that representatives of the Minneapolis NAACP branch and the Minneapolis School District had made a commitment to participate in the project. However, the branch president, Shalia Lindsey did not inform the branch about the state's proposal to open NAACP Parent Information Centers until October 2002. The current branch president, Albert Gallmon was a member of the Minneapolis School Board and a declared candidate for the office of Minneapolis NAACP branch president, but ran for the post of first vice president on Lindsey's slate.
For active NAACP members, the branch membership meeting on June 28, 2003 was the first opportunity to approve or reject the state's proposal to involve the NAACP in the operation of Parent Information Centers after the grant proposal was made available to and reviewed by branch members in open committee meetings.
Prior to June 28, 2003 the president and executive committee of the Minneapolis branch had not received approval from anyone in the NAACP national office to sign any contracts or to spend any money on the Parent Information Centers project.
A letter dated June 30, 2003 from the office of Kweisi Mfume, President and CEO of the NAACP stated that the Minneapolis Branch may go forward with the Parent Information Centers project, but only if certain conditions are met, including the approval of a personnel policy by the active branch membership.
However, the president and executive committee of the Minneapolis NAACP branch have moved forward with plans to open two Parent Information Centers for business on August 16, 2003 without authorization from the active branch membership. See "Community Alert," which is appended to this letter / Email.
The settlement of the educational adequacy lawsuit is not an agreement to allow the people who run the public schools in Minneapolis to set the agenda of the NAACP and to run its branches. We still have issues with the people who run the schools which must not be swept under the rug.
The NAACP has traditionally supported K-12 educational policies based on the premise that all public schools can be good schools and that it possible to eliminate most of the existing gap in academic achievement between blacks and whites, and between poor and middle class students.
The Minneapolis School District says it is focused on student achievement; that its strategic goals are to improve student achievement and to close the gap in academic achievement. However, the district has not been making progress toward those goals. The basic problem, in our view, is a failure to take the necessary steps to identify and change mechanisms within the school system that contribute to huge disparities in academic achievement.
We know that elementary schools serving the poorest neighborhoods in Minneapolis have generally overexposed students to the least experienced teachers, but the NAACP is not telling the Minneapolis District to desegregate those teachers.
We know that the Minneapolis District uses a part-time curriculum tracking system on students in the early elementary grades and "dumbs-down" the curriculum to varying degrees for a large majority of the students, but the NAACP is not telling the district that our children are entitled to receive the same kind of education provided to a majority of the white, middle class students.
Our children are not stupid. And education is not a privilege. It is a right.
We request that the NAACP Board of Directors reaffirm the decision of the Minneapolis Branch membership in this matter, and that the President and CEO of the NAACP take immediate action to disassociate the NAACP from the Parent Information Centers project that is being funded through a federal grant to the MN Dept.of Education.
-Doug Mann and others, *Doug Mann is a life member of NAACP, and has served on the Minneapolis branch K-12 Education Committee (1998-1999, Chair: Catherine Williams), and Minnesota-Dakota Conference K-12 Education Committee (2003, Chair: Evelyn Eubanks).