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ERES School Grounds

Don’t block new charter schoolhouse in Oakland

From the San Francisco Chronicle Opinion Section, June 5, 2018

Don’t block new charter schoolhouse in Oakland

June 5, 2018

We are immigrants whose families came here for a better life. We believe a good public education is the key to this dream, and are writing to challenge the politicians on the Oakland Unified School District board and around the Bay Area who want to tell us and our community how and where to educate our kids. We say: Stop blaming charter schools for generations of school district failure, and instead let’s work together on behalf of all kids.

We chose a charter public school because the traditional public schools in Oakland were not safe and had bad results, especially for Latino children like ours. Today the traditional schools are running out of paper, and the district is making harsh budget cuts after wasting millions in new money from the state. Voters have approved millions of dollars in bonds, but the district has made almost no progress building and fixing schools, and some schools have dangerous levels of lead in the water.

This is why nearly 30 percent of Oakland public school students are in public charter schools. That’s why parents like us started a charter public school 20 years ago, one of Oakland’s first. But it did not show big improvements, and closed after 10 years.

That’s one of the promises of charters — when they don’t work, they close. But rather than return to a still-failing district, parents rose up and asked a nonprofit organization, Aspire Public Schools, to help us found ERES Academy, a K-8 elementary school in the Fruitvale District.

Now our school is doing better than other public schools in our neighborhood. One of our children has special needs, and contrary to what the politicians on school boards say, we found better care at ERES Academy than we had in the district’s traditional public schools. Many of our children have attended both traditional and charter public schools, but all children would be better served by the district and charters working together.

Some of our school board members, however, want to blame charter schools and limit our choices. More state money is coming in per student, and yet still the Oakland school district is facing a budget crisis. The board prevents charters from using public school facilities — facilities paid for by bonds that we voted for and pay for — and then seeks to block us when we try to build a better school facility on our own. They vote to approve our charter and vote for our expansion, but then they don’t make the necessary adjustments to their own bureaucracy. They exercise school choice for their own children — sending them to the best district and private schools, but then want it to be harder for us to exercise the same choice.

The district has partnered with charters before, creating better and safer schools. Please — let’s have the district and charter schools come together so that communities like ours and schools like ERES can thrive and serve more children. Specifically:

•Please don’t stand in the way of us getting a new facility that we have successfully raised funds for and you could not help us get.

•Please stop pushing for greater power to say no to charters when you take advantage of school choice for your own children.

•Please enact responsible budgets and policies that will allow charter and district public schools to work together.

Rocio Arias and Gloria Aguilar have two students attending and six alumni from ERES Academy in Oakland; Leticia Molina has one child at ERES Academy.