Students from my community of West Contra Costa are often denied the opportunity for achievement because they are thought of as too poor to learn. Parents are often fed false information about the school options available to them, and charter schools are demonized by these misconceptions. Instead of educating and empowering parents to be the ones to make decisions that they see best for their students, we are denying them this opportunity by putting school choice on the agenda as a negative item.
My mother hustled and was able to get a transfer for me to attend great elementary schools and middle schools that gave me the fundamental skills needed to succeed in academics. I recall being an English language learner, I had a tutor sit with me in the back of the class and translate the material with me so that I could eventually be integrated into the full class. Despite arriving in the US at the age of six and entering first grade without speaking a word of English, this support allowed me to exit the ELD program by 3rd grade.
My mother should not have had to demand a district transfer for me to have this support. She should have felt comfortable sending me to my neighborhood school. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Access to a great education should not be that hard. I should not have been the “lucky one” that got a transfer approved to attend schools in a neighboring, wealthier district. Every single student should be receiving the support that she needs because it is crucial to her success.
I was fortunate enough to attend high school at Leadership Public Schools Richmond, a charter school in Richmond. At LPS Richmond, I was challenged academically and met with the support that I needed to succeed in the rigorous curriculum. My classmates and I are proof that students can never be too poor to learn. Regardless of their zip code, students believe they can succeed in the world if met with caring, competent teachers and a rigorous academic environment. This was the case, not just for me, but also for many other poor kids of color who achieved great academic accomplishments because of their access to school choice.
Currently, there is a huge debate around charter schools and school choice in general. There are people in power and elected officials discussing policies and laws, but students aren’t getting a say.
Now that school choice has become such a hot topic with Trump’s administration, it is more important than ever to highlight the experiences of students that benefitted from a charter education.
With so many misconceptions in the media around school choice, we must amplify our voice and stand firm on the fact that no one can deny our experiences. Parents living in low income communities should not have to drive an hour away each morning like my parents did. Students in my community will not even stand a chance at success if the opportunity is denied to them from the start. Before engaging in a debate on school choice politics, we should visit these schools and listen to the experiences of students and families that have benefitted from this option for education.
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