If parents of York City School District students step forward as plaintiffs, the president of the York NAACP said the organization will consider filing a lawsuit to fight the possible conversion of district schools to charter schools.
"I cannot say NAACP will sue. What I can say is we are investigating to sue. We are soliciting plaintiffs to investigate a potential lawsuit," Sandra Thompson said.
Thompson raised that possibility at a school board meeting Wednesday, saying she had the support of state-level NAACP officials to bring legal action.
However, national-level officials will make the final decision about whether the NAACP will funnel its resources into a York City lawsuit, she said.
And before that decision can be made, Thompson said, parents of district students would need to sign on as potential plaintiffs.
"We can be for you, and we can say how we want to advocate for you. But if you're not standing by us, there's nothing we can do," Thompson said. "We need parents to step up."
The city school district is in the midst of a financial recovery process guided by state-appointed chief recovery officer David Meckley.
The district's recovery plan took effect for the 2013-14 academic year. Known as the internal-transformation model, the strategy was proposed by teachers union and administration leaders.
However, charter conversions are the alternative if the transformation model does not achieve its performance goals or if the district is not able to achieve its financial goals.
Negotiations between the union and district are currently at a standstill.
The district has positioned itself to make a final decision before November about whether to turn operations over to an external charter provider or continue on a path of internal transformation.
On Wednesday, Meckley recommended that the district focus its efforts on vetting the backgrounds of two companies that have proposed converting all city schools to charters a year from now.
Thompson, a local attorney, said the legal argument in the hypothetical lawsuit would be based on the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
"You don't have these fights for all these charters going into affluent, white neighborhoods," she said.
As a whole, charter schools are not known to improve the quality of education, she said. And, Thompson said, "It's probably going to cost more money to bring them in than to run the current school district."
The NAACP is not opposed to charter schools generally but is "opposed to the idea that charter schools are the answer to public education, to the plight of public education," she said.
"We believe that the answer is to put more money into public education, put the money and available resources into public education," Thompson said.
Thompson declined to say if she'd prefer to file a lawsuit before the school board decides whether to contract with a charter management company or after.
"Any time you tell people your strategy, they will change theirs," she said.
The defendants would be the "decision-makers," she said.
That could include the school board, the Community Education Council, the state Department of Education or Meckley, Thompson said.
"I don't want to jump the gun on any of that yet," she said.
Thompson can be reached at (717) 577-4436.
- Reach Erin James at firstname.lastname@example.org.