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Editor’s Note: This is an insightful opinion piece written by Raymond J. Ankrum, and was originally published on March 18,2019 by Citizen Ed, here. Mr. Ankrum is the current Superintendent of the Riverhead Charter School. Mr. Ankrum has gained notoriety as a school turnaround expert. He is enthusiastic about helping students from low (SES) find ways to end generational poverty through educational advocacy.
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Let’s please stop blaming charter schools for school failure. I know we’re easy targets, but I assure you that education is just outright bad for [People of Color] PoC.
Pundits that are against charter schools and school choice have stated: “Black and LatinX parents aren’t smart enough to choose schools for their children.” To the individuals that are shaming these parents for choosing for their children, I say, “we’ve been down this road before.” Historically, we have always had folks telling us what’s best for us.
Regardless of where you stand on the school choice argument, the one fact we can’t debate is that parents have the absolute right to choose the education that best fits their children.
Sports, occupations, politics, everyone has competition. The beauty of education is that no one model works for 100% of students. We are continually practicing new strategies to teach students.
“Parents are fed up with traditional public schools. They have watched these same schools fail generations.”
Recently, some have said that parents choose charter schools because they “don’t do their due diligence.” In fact, It’s 100% the opposite. Parents are fed up with traditional public schools. They have watched these same schools fail generations. Due diligence comes in the form of the generational poverty experienced by relatives that attended and continue to participate in these failure mills disguised as educational institutions. There is no better spokesperson than someone that has continuously failed at a task. The lived experience of these parents has to account for something.
We can agree to disagree on the intellectual prowess of those that seek school choice. As a parent that has chosen to educate my child in a charter school, I find it somewhat non-sensical that folks have the nerve to question me about my child and my decision. I’ve done my “due diligence.” Now what? You want me to put my baby, in a school that has failed generations? But, I’m the crazy one?
For the last three years, we’ve spent close to undergraduate tuition at a state school in NY, to ensure our daughter was ready for pre-K. I know many families are not as blessed to be able to allocate that kind of money towards their child’s education. However, these are the very families that need more than just a status quo education for their children. A quality education should help to break cycles of poverty, not continue to create them.
Every school choice parent has a story. Every child of a “choice” parent that has attended a public school and no longer attends that school also has a story to tell. Instead of persecuting these parents, let’s find out their stories. Have you ever asked a school choice parent why they chose the school they selected? This type of dialogue would be far more engaging. It may also help to get to the root of the problem, and learn why certain schools no longer work for certain types of students.
Let’s be real here. Charter schools are relatively new. Experts may disagree on the era in which public schools began to deteriorate. You have some that say public schools were never intentioned for Black and LatinX students. Wherever folks reside in the argument, we should all agree that public schools need to improve for minority students.
If you’ve never stared poverty in the face, don’t talk to me about the choices I make for my child.
Okay, people. Let’s grow up. We have identified the problem. It isn’t charter schools. It is terrible schools. Now that we’ve identified the problem as bad schools, how do we fix them? Blaming the competition is not the answer. Admitting there is a problem, and committing to addressing the issue is the first step towards resolving it. Stop blaming charter schools.
We need genuine and thoughtful dialogue. Enough with this “let’s blame charters” argument because it is getting tired.
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