Is Dr. Steve Perry Right In His Support Of Donald Trump’s Sec. Of Education Nominee?

January 20, 2017  |  

Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s pick for the Secretary of Education, is certainly having a tough confirmation hearing.

First, it was this dragging by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Then it was this dragging by Minnesota Sen. Al Franken.

And finally this straight-up, no-chaser dragging by Democrat purists and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders:

At the heart of everyone’s need to drag Mrs. DeVos is the belief that once confirmed, millionaire-education reformist will gut the DOE’s public school system and replace it with charter schools and vouchers. It’s a valid concern considering her history and relationship to for-profit educational groups.

And it’s a position that some progressive leaders and civil right organizations are against. This includes the NAACP, which recently ratified its organizational resolution to include a moratorium on new charter schools until concerned about high suspension rates for children of color and “cherry-picking” high achieving students could be resolved.

But in spite of all the pushback, it seems that DeVos has at least one public supporter in the community: Dr. Steve Perry.

That’s right, the prominent Black educator and founder of the highly acclaimed Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Connecticut, which is known for graduating 100 percent of its all-Black male academy into college for almost 10 consecutive years, is supporting DeVos’ nomination.

More specifically in a series of tweets, he writes:

Dr. Perry, who is also working with Sean “Puffy” Combs on a charter school in Harlem, is no stranger to taking controversial positions on education.

An avid promoter of charter schools, Dr. Perry has been criticized for his aggressive anti-teachers union stance. And last year, the educator was accused of perpetuating “respectability politics” for suggesting dreadlocks and afros did not promote an “aesthetics to success.”

Nevertheless, the issue of vouchers and charter schools have always caused division within education circles. This is particularly true for Black communities where families are desperate for good alternatives to what are essentially failing public schools.

In fact, some of the NAACP’s biggest detractors were Black educational and civic leaders, who drafted a letter requesting the civil rights group reconsider its moratorium for the sake of the 700,000 Black families choosing to send their children to charter public schools and the tens of thousands more who are still on waiting lists.”

As the leaders told the NAACP:

“There is a reason for enthusiastic support in the Black community: parents see for themselves how their children are flourishing in charter schools. According to the most thorough and respected study of charter school results, conducted by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, Black students learn more when they attend charter schools. Black students in charter schools gained the equivalent of 14 extra days of learning in reading and 14 extra days of learning in math per year compared with their Black peers in traditional district schools. For low-income Black students attending charter schools, the learning gains were even more dramatic—the equivalent of

29 extra learning days in reading and 36 extra learning days in math.

Because of these results, a substantial number of Black parents want to have the option of enrolling their children in high-quality charter schools. For many urban Black families, charter schools are making it possible to do what affluent families have long been able to do: rescue their children from failing schools. The NAACP should not support efforts to take that option away from low-income and working-class Black families.

A blanket moratorium on charter schools would limit Black students’ access to some of the best schools in America and deny Black parents the opportunity to make decisions about what’s best for their children. ”

The letter was signed by over 160 educators, civic leaders and clergy including Dr. Perry.

Even President Obama is a supporter of charter schools. In 2012, he referred to them as “incubators of innovation” during a proclamation commemorating National Charter School Week. His Race to the Top competitive grant plan included a provision to expand “support for high-performing public charter schools,” particularly in low-income and minority communities.

And during his 8 years has increased charter school funding by also $125.2 million, which actually fell short of his original promise to “double funding for the Federal Charter School Program to support the creation of more successful charter schools.”

Point is, many of our folks are supporters of school choice.

And as bad and seemingly unqualified as DeVos is, Dr. Perry might have a point about the opportunities her appointment might create for our folks to build the kind of quality schools we say we want to see more of in our communities.

Granted, I don’t know about cheerleading her appointment.

I don’t even think charter schools, as they are being implemented now, are our final solution (Like, what’s the point of taking your kids our of public school if you’re going to put them in the Dr. Umar Johnson School of Imaginary Friends).

At the same time, there is nothing wrong with planning for the inevitable.

And for our sake – and the sake our of children – I hope there are some Black educators working on school plans of our own.

As it should be clear as day, they have one.

Charing Ball is a writer, cultural critic and smarty-pants Black feminist from Philadelphia. To learn more, visit

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