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By Keri Rodrigues, co-founder and president of the National Parents Union
Since the beginning of this new administration, President Joe Biden, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and the U.S. Department of Education made clear their commitment to create a new, inclusive, intersectional and transformational level of engagement with parents, families and communities across the country.
Their promise to usher in a new era of collaboration with the stakeholders, who are closest to the pain of education inequality, and most directly impacted by the policies, rules, and regulations set by the federal government is dubious at best.
Unfortunately, the announcement by the US Department of Education to propose radical changes to the process by which charter schools must follow to open new schools misses the mark on making good on that promise even as this is neither a Democrat or Republican issue, but a human rights issue affecting our nation’s most vulnerable student populations.
Education Secretary Cardona misses the mark
While there are portions of these proposed rule changes that we find positive and potentially helpful, the process under which these changes are happening does not even come close to fulfilling the promises made by Secretary Cardona regarding the need to bring all stakeholders to the decision-making table.
Communities who would be directly affected by these changes to the charter school funding program have not been notified of these changes. And, most discouragingly, have not participated in a robust public comment process.
In addition, changing rules to the development or expansion of public charter schools and other innovative approaches to education directly flies in the face of what the majority of American families support at this time. Nearly all of the national polling data collected by the National Parents Union over the past 23 months have consistently indicated strong support for innovation and the reimagination of education.
These rule changes would significantly restrict the ability for innovators in our public education system to meet those needs and expand their ability to serve students with new, innovative models of education.
Rules changes ignore disparities in traditional public schools
It is equally disappointing that this move appears to be merely part of a political game in which special interest groups have decided to attack a particular school governance model rather than addressing the real elephant in the room.
Instead of proposing similar changes to improve the community impact of all schools, including traditional district schools who have historically engaged in the deeply harmful under-serving of many economically disadvantaged and communities of color, they are narrowly focused on charters.
Traditional public schools have done much more to adversely impact these subgroups by routinely failing to attract and retain teachers of color and have negatively impacted communities through generational systemic racism.
Yet we do not hear the same cries for community impact evaluations and transformative community engagement in order for these existing systems to receive funding from the federal government — even though imposing these changes would improve conditions for a far greater number of our children.
The hypocrisy is not lost on the parents, families and communities across the United States.
Keri Rodrigues is co-founder and president of the National Parents Union.