Unable to reinvent itself, Black Alliance for Educational Options to shut down after nearly 20 years

After a failed attempt at reinvention, a longtime national advocacy group for black parents will shut down at the end of the year.

The Black Alliance for Educational Options was founded by Howard Fuller, the influential former Milwaukee superintendent and school choice advocate, almost 20 years ago. The Washington, D.C.-based organization had pushed for parent choice and charter schools in Alabama, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and other states.

“We know there is much more to accomplish in the education reform space, and that an unapologetically Black-led organization should be at the forefront of the ongoing struggle for high-quality schools,” the organization said in a letter posted on its website Wednesday morning. But, the letter added, “Times have changed.”

“We have decided that it is time to cease operations at BAEO, and our sister organization, BAEO Action Fund (BAF), effective December 31, 2017.”

The organization has struggled to remain financially viable and relevant over the last several years.

The national organization was in limbo for most of 2015 while searching for a new president. Jacqueline Cooper permanently took the helm in February 2016, but most of the national staff was laid off during that period.

In 2016, Fuller — by then chairman emeritus of the group’s board, Education Week reported — announced that BAEO would discontinue its formal operations and launch a Social Innovation Challenge that would help reshape or even replace the organization. BAEO promised to invest $500,000 into the winning proposal.

But in February, BAEO announced no one would win the prize. It said that the “process did not produce a revolutionary or transformative idea.”

The organization splintered further in the last year. In June 2016, BAEO’s Tennessee’s chapter decided to break away due to the storm of uncertainty around its national organization. Now called The Campaign for School Equity, the organization has shifted its focus to helping students become education advocates.

After Tennessee’s exit, BAEO’s only remaining chapters were in New Jersey and Louisiana.

“We are incredibly proud of our legacy, including the thousands of parental choice champions created … spin-off organizations created to continue our work in the community; legislation enacted, protected and expanded in states across the country; and elected officials we supported through BAF,” BAEO said in its statement.