The Black Alabamians for Educational Opportunity will host a second community meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at the Downtown Civic Center to discuss Gadsden City Schools.
The BAEO is the same organization that hosted a meeting July 6.
BAEO founder Neonta Williams describes the meetings as “A Community Conversation Series: Education and Your Community.” Williams is a Litchfield graduate now working as an education advocate.
At the July meeting, she presented test scores and talked about the achievement gap among black, white and Hispanic students.
Williams said the first meeting brought together a number of people with experience and expertise who can help develop community plans for improving education.
In the second meeting, she hopes to continue the discussion with those concerned community members.
According to an organizational history of the BAEO provided by Williams, the organization was founded after a national education reform advocacy organization — Black Alliance for Education Options — exhausted its financial support for Alabama operations.
“Although BAEO was no longer funded nationally to operate in Alabama, staff and supporters of this necessary organization are still needed,” the history states. “As a result, we have formed (our) rebirth as Black Alabamians For Educational Options.
The national organization counted among successes the passage in 2013 of the Alabama Accountability Act, with two key components:
‒ The Parent Refundable Tax Credit program giving parents with a child zoned to a failing school the opportunity to receive a tax credit to transfer their child to a non-failing public or private school.
‒ The Tax Credits for Contributions to Scholarship Granting Organizations program that allows low-income students who are zoned to failing public schools to receive a scholarship to attend the school of their choice.
The national BAEO also pursued legislation that would offer Alabamians the option of charter schools. In 2015, the Alabama School Choice and Opportunity Act became law. According to the history provided by Williams, the law “will allow educational alternatives for Black families.”
After four years of grassroots work, the national organization’s funding in Alabama ended, leading to the state BAEO.
“One of the BAEO’s fundamental core values is that we are UNAPOLOGETIC,” Williams’ history states. “We are unapologetic in our belief that the changes we seek require engagement and/or leadership by the Black community on behalf of the Black community.”
When national advocacy financial support ended in Alabama, the history states, there was no organization — particularly no Black-led organization, with grassroots efforts in Alabama.
“With this huge absence of presence, former Black Alliance for Educational Options staff members and parents have opted to form Black Alabamians for Educational Options with the sole intent to continue to fully advocate on behalf of Black communities, which are often impacted by reform,” the history continues.
“While our engagement is intentional with Black low-income working class families, we are inclusive of all families. We will ensure that the broader education reform options that are now lawful and optional in Alabama are given great attention to.
“We intend to do so by engaging Black families, communities, faith/clergy leaders, business owners, educators and others that are most affected and interested in the education of our K-12 students being college and/or career ready upon graduation from high school,” the history continues.