This moment in educational history is unlike any other. Over the last year, families have faced incredible personal and economic hardships, while children nationwide, especially our most vulnerable, have struggled academically and emotionally.
The complex question facing America as we recover from this pandemic is, where do we go from here – and how do we do it together? The answer is simple: we need to double down on what we know is working for children.
That means delivering educational justice – and it means supporting public charter schools.
Over the course of the pandemic, public charter schools both across the nation and here at home adapted to the unique circumstances that COVID-19 posed. When the crisis first emerged, they deployed technological tools – laptops, hotspots, and more – with comparative ease. Public charter school teachers went door to door for their kids, handing out academic packets and learning materials, ensuring that all children had access to their necessary coursework. Educators, so often doing a full day of live teaching virtually, worked around the clock to provide additional after-hours instruction on Zoom or over the phone to meet children where they were.
Public charter schools demonstrated extraordinary flexibility in a way most large school systems couldn’t in order to meet the needs of their students. They ensured that learning, despite the obstacles posed by the pandemic, never became one-size-fits-all. The 87 public charter schools across New Jersey serving more than 57,000 students showed what was possible when we, as a society, invest in great schools.
But now, at a time when we should all be coming together to support our children, when we should be putting kids – not politics – first, Congress is trying to wage war against these public charter schools, which are free and open to all, and who have been supporting those children who are most in-need, especially amid the pandemic.
Congress is considering slashing funding for the federal Charter Schools Program, which specifically funds high-quality new school options, many of which are in communities where the only other options for families are low-performing schools. For New Jersey, this means tens of millions of dollars in funding lost for those communities where parents are clamoring for more public school options that meet their children’s needs.
The impact is real.
We know that this will impact so many families, because the data shows that public charter schools are working and are serving kids where the need is high. A recent Stanford University study showed that charter school achievement gains in Newark have been the best in the nation. Data point, after data point, after data point continues to show that public charter schools are closing opportunity gaps and delivering for students. Charter school students in New Jersey are exceeding expectations in ELA and Math, with 33% of students more likely to read at grade level, and 44% more likely to perform math at grade level than their traditional public school peers. No wonder why there are 36,000 students currently sitting on charter wait lists seeking to enroll into a great public charter school.
Public charter schools in New Jersey are truly a ticket to a strong education for tens of thousands of children across our state.
But when it comes to potential cuts from Washington to the Charter School Program to fund new high-quality schools, the future for these children hang in the balance.
In this unique moment in history, when so many disparities nationwide – from the digital divide, to health outcomes, and everything in between – have been spotlighted because of the pandemic, we’re at an inflection point with a simple choice. Are we, as a state and a nation, going to stand for educational justice for thousands of our children who deserve access to a great public school in the future? Or are we going to go backwards to a status quo that was already failing to serve children?
Charter schools give parents options—and if there is one thing we learned from the past year, it’s that families deserve the freedom to choose the best public school for their child. It’s morally right – and educationally smart. Take one minute to send an email to your representatives in Washington.
Congress must stand up and do the right thing by funding the Charter School Program now, so that generations of children across our state and nation have access to the school that’s right for them, exactly when they need great schools most.