The charter vs. traditional district school debate has been a priority topic in education for way too long. I have memories of being a teen and stepping into school board meetings to advocate for our public charter school to remain open and for us to be recognized by the school district. I wasn’t aware of the motives or politics behind these meetings, all I knew was that I loved my school, my teachers and the learning that took place inside the building.
I am a product of both traditional public schools and public charter schools in my home community of Richmond, California. I attended local public schools as an elementary school student and was granted an intra-district transfer to attend a middle school in a neighboring district. My mother was not satisfied with her local middle school options and made the decision to move me, even if it meant an hour commute both ways. When it came time for my mother to enroll me in high school, she was not satisfied with the options locally and decided to enroll me in Leadership Public Schools Richmond. She had heard positive things through word of mouth through her friends. This decision was by far the most important my mother made when it came to my educational success and schooling.
My mother was not concerned about political motives or the money behind the schools. Like many parents today, she was only focused on sending me to a school that would support me in achieving my college-going dreams. As a mother with a daughter in the district, I would follow in my mother’s footsteps and seek alternative options for my daughter to attend high school. It has been 10 years since my mother made this decision for me and not much has improved in terms of student achievement. This has impacted 10 school year’s worth of students being provided inadequate support and making only minimal growth in terms of achievement data and results. During these same 10 years, Leadership Public Schools has earned gold medals through the U.S. News rankings. The difference between these two school systems include one important one: a focus on student learning and not on political games.
As the LAUSD school board gets ready to vote on the charter cap, I ask that folks step away from the politics and learn from stories of families who, like my own, make choices to prioritize the education of their children. These are the constituents you serve. These are the stories that matter. Families deserve choice, especially when being forced to send kids to the local school means that these students will continue to fail. This is not about the referendum or the political funding conversations that keep being prioritized, this is about families wanting the best for their students and given them to agency and ownership over their education. It’s time to shift the conversation away from politics and money and bring it back to what’s important, our students.
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