White families “do best” for their children; when Latinos or African-Americans exercise choice, it’s called a “drain”
Out of the 11.6 million new jobs created nationally since the Great Recession, 99 percent went to those with college experience. If we want California’s economy to thrive, we need to develop a more capable and diverse workforce of college graduates from among all communities across the state.
Public charter schools — 100 percent of which are run by non-profit organizations — are playing a critical role on that front.
Whether you’ve spent time in a public charter school or never heard of them, the impact that these tuition-free public schools have on our communities and our state is undeniable — perhaps nowhere more so than within California’s most historically underserved communities.
Sixty-one percent of California’s K-12 student population is considered “low-income.” Low-income students at public charter schools score higher in both math and English Language Arts as compared to students who attend traditional government-run district schools.
Charter schools are also graduating a higher percentage of low-income students from high school and enrolling a higher percentage in two- and four-year colleges. Most importantly, charter school graduates are earning their bachelor’s degrees at four times the national rate of students from similar communities.
When our students succeed, the future of our entire state is brighter.
High-quality public education is a fundamental right with the capacity to transform lives, sustain communities and impact future generations. Historically and today, communities of color and low-income families often have the poorest-quality and most-limited educational opportunities.
More than 20 years ago, public charter schools began opening in California to empower families with another choice. Today, California’s 1,253 public charter schools educate 652,933 students, 59 percent of whom are socioeconomically disadvantaged. Seventy percent are students of color, 15 percent are English-language learners, and 10 percent are students with special needs. California’s public charter schools represent only 10.6 percent of all public schools across the state.
Recently, the state Senate and Assembly education committees dealt these students, families and communities a significant blow with the passage of four bills. These bills would put a moratorium on public charter schools, limit the growth of new charters, and eliminate academic opportunity from families who have been underserved for decades. This legislation suggests a misleading and divisive zero-sum “district-versus-charter” rhetoric.
When a white, wealthier family leaves a neighborhood public school for an affluent suburban school, a parochial or private school, or a magnet school, we accept that “they are doing what is best for their child.”
But when a Latino or African-American family makes that same choice, we call it a “drain” on public education. This double standard bares the institutional racism of how public education has worked historically in our state.
Charter schools represent one piece of a broader solution, showing results, especially for students who have been historically underserved. It is counterintuitive to limit school options when the state still has much work to do when it comes to equity and quality in public education.
We call on our elected officials to oppose this package of harmful bills so that each and every child in California has access to a high-quality public education, and that our state has the most-skilled, most-prepared workforce to flourish in the 21st century.
Mala Batra is interim CEO of Aspire Public Schools. Beth Sutkus Thompson is CEO of KIPP Bay Area Public Schools. Dan Katzir is CEO of Alliance College-Ready Public Schools.