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Every day I see young children in my community who are filled with hope. They are eager to learn and ready to become the leaders of tomorrow. Sadly, not enough students are able to attend a school that offer high-quality education to prepare them to achieve their dreams. As a mother, this hits me particularly hard during Black History Month.
History is made every day in this country. And I believe every child should have a chance at placing their stamp on it. However, that starts with a solid foundation in education.
There are hundreds of thousands of students across the country who are relegated to underfunded schools.
Their zip code and family income dictate the quality of education they receive. Many of these students are Black and Brown. Hence, we must provide better academic and cultural opportunities for our children.
What the Pandemic Revealed about Public Education
Meanwhile, a pandemic underscores the challenges schools face in meeting all students’ needs. Zoom gave parents a deep look into what was happening in classrooms via remote learning.
We saw first-hand the curriculum, the teaching methods, and often the scarcity of resources. We experienced what our kids are like as students and how skilled their teachers are at classroom management. To be frank, it was a wake-up call and enough for many parents to start seeking better options for their children.
It has been my experience–and that of many parents I know who live in quality–school deserts, to enroll their children in public charters. Because public schools that fail to meet the needs of students have an impact from one generation to the next.
As Black parents, like we’re unapologetic about Black History Month, we must be unapologetic in making our kids’ educational needs known.
My Why for Helping Other Parents
Having grown up in Newark, N.J., I could have easily gone down the wrong path had my parents allowed for me to be passed through a failing school system. I’m however grateful that they made sacrifices so that I could attend a high-quality school. Nevertheless, I understand that not everyone has the means to do what my parents had done for me.
Today, as a single mother with two Black sons living in the same city, I don’t have the resources to pay for private schools for both of them. However, I did have the option to enroll them into a public charter school and that’s what I did.
It is no easy task to transfer a child from one school to another, especially during a pandemic. Many offices cut their hours or offer online services only. Pulling legal documents, medical records, birth certificates, and academic history is a challenge.
Now, I dedicate my life to helping other parents, grandparents and caretakers understand the educational landscape. I show them how there are better educational options for their children within reach, regardless of their income, skin color, or where they live.
Nearly 240,000 new students enrolled in these innovative, student-centered public schools across the U.S. during the 2020-21 school year. Simultaneously, traditional public schools experienced a precipitous drop in enrollment in every state. Moreover, at least 39 states saw charter school enrollment increase according to the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools.
Why Public Charter Schools?
We as parents were impressed by how charter schools prioritized creating an engaged-parent community, which is paramount in our children’s success.
As parents, we have the choice of not just location, but what is the best school culture for our child. As the mother of two Black boys, I want my sons to attend schools that aren’t afraid of celebrating Black History Month. We get to decide what environment would cultivate our child’s character as well as their academic performance.
We need more public schools like this, not a system preparing them for a life of poverty or prison. Schools should be dedicated to growing our children academically sound and emotionally intelligent.
Many public charters have proven they are academically capable, flexible, and willing to give our children their all. Who wouldn’t want that for their own children or all kids in their community?
The public charter option is opening the eyes of many parents.
It is not enough that my son has a quality education. His friends deserve one, too. All students do, especially those coming from historically underserved Black and Brown communities. That should be the promise of our public education system, to our kids.
A Call To Civic Engagement for High-Quality Education
We need to hold our lawmakers and decision-makers accountable in making education a fundamental civil right that every student can experience.
We must make our demands known to them.
And if they fail us or fall short, we as Black parents must not only vote with our mouths, but we must vote with our feet marching to the ballot box and show them what accountability looks like.
We must stay informed on the issues and what we are voting for and mobilize our family, friends, and community and vote.
We must do these things because our children are not only worthy of going to a school that honors Black History Month but a school that provides leadership who understands the importance of receiving a high-quality education.
By Jasmine Morrison, a parent activist in Newark, New Jersey