Organizational History

Photo of a BAEO childIn March 1999, the Institute for the Transformation of Learning (ITL) at Marquette University convened the First Annual Symposium, a meeting of 150 Black people in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to discuss parental choice and the educational challenges facing disadvantaged Black families in America. At that time, the charter school movement was growing, and parental choice was gaining currency among progressive policymakers and at the grassroots. Symposium participants focused on the need for greater choice and better options within the Black community, and agreed that a national organization of Black America for Black America would best advance this cause. Consequently, December 3-5, 1999, 50 dedicated Black leaders gathered in Washington, DC, for the organizing meeting of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO). The founders adopted the name of the organization, the mission statement and BAEO's general principles.

The Second Annual Symposium, hosted again by ITL, drew approximately 350 attendees, 90 of whom met subsequently to continue organizing BAEO. At this meeting, participants reviewed the first draft of the organization's bylaws and elected Dr. Howard Fuller as President of the Board (the title was later changed to Chair of the Board). A 29-member board formed and met for the first time on June 17, 2000. The organization officially launched with a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on August 24, 2000.

BAEO has grown to become the preeminent national organization for those who support high-quality educational options for low-income and working-class Black children. 

  • In the District of Columbia, Kevin P. Chavous helped shape the three-sector education partnership with the federal government, which in addition to supporting a robust charter schools program, led to funding of the District's Opportunity Scholarship Program. BAEO's leadership has been critical in maintaining support for this landmark initiative, which has allowed 2,000 low-income children to escape failing schools and attend high-performing private schools.

  • In Florida, BAEO supported the work of John Kirtley and Michael Benjamin whose efforts resulted in the extension of the Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship Program-with the help of a full third of Democrats in the Legislature, including 13 of 25 members of the state's Black Caucus.

  • In Alabama, BAEO led efforts that resulted in the passage of the Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act, which allowed for the creation of charter schools. The PIE Network recognized the organization's work by honoring BAEO with the "Game Changer of the Year" award at its annual conference.

  • In Louisiana, BAEO partnered with journalist, Roland Martin, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, with a book entitled:Resilience, Recovery and Empowerment and produced a television special, The New Orleans Charter School Revolution-Ten Years After Katrina

  • In 2016, BAEO released a national report: State of Black Education in Black America, 2015 to show the impact of high-quality parent choice policies and transformational education reform initiatives.  The report also makes clear that gaps in the academic achievement of children from low-income and working-class Black families still persist, and more work needs to be done to ensure all children can achieve the American dream. 

  • And also in 2016, BAEO teamed up with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools to raise awareness about charter school successes in the wake of the NAACP's resolution to put a moratorium on new charter schools.