Newark charter school parents head to Trenton

Newark Charter school parents rally outside the offices of Assemblywoman Mila Jasey two years ago.

Parents of Newark charter school students are among the hundreds of supporters who will be heading to Trenton today to deliver a message to state lawmakers: don't stand in the way of our children's education.

“I’m going to Trenton because this issue is about equality and opportunity for all kids, not just my own children,” said Haneef Auguste, a Newark parent whose children attend KIPP New Jersey.

“I made a conscious decision to send my four children to KIPP New Jersey Schools because I wanted something better for my children and couldn’t afford to move or pay for private school," Auguste said. "No one should stand in the way of any child’s chance at a better life, especially when the circumstances in some of our communities are so dire.”

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During the day, parents will meet with lawmakers in the State House and share their personal stories how charter schools have helped their children.

“I am raising two grandsons in Newark, and North Star Academy Charter School has been a partner to me in this important work,” said Barbara Harris. “When we have schools in a place like Newark that are helping young African American boys succeed and go to college, we want to make sure our legislators are taking note.”

The New Jersey Charter Schools Association said today's legislative push is the first effort in a year-long initiative to engage lawmakers.

The organization, which represents the state's 88 charter schools serving more than 45,000 students, said it plans to involve parents in get-out-the-vote efforts in school board and the upcoming legislative and gubernatorial elections. 

It also plans to facilitate parent communications with legislators through postcard campaigns, op-eds, meetings with lawmakers and participation in town halls and election debates.

The organization also plans a series of educational trainings to empower parents to "take charge of their child’s and communities’ futures."

New Jersey's charter schools have come under increasing fire in recent years. The New Jersey Education Association, which represents most of the state's teachers, has called for a charter school moratorium, arguing that charter schools are pulling money away from traditional public schools.

An organization known as the Latino Coalition has also filed a series of civil rights complaints against a number of charter schools around the state, claiming they segregate, a charge the charters vigorously dispute.

Charter supporters say the schools are successfully serving their communities, citing examples from Camden to Jersey City, Paterson to Newark.

KIPP New Jersey and Uncommon Schools' North Star Academy both send 90 percent or more of their high school graduates to college, making both schools the top in the state at sending black students to 4 year colleges.

North Star Academy’s collaboration with Newark Public Schools to turn around a district school resulted in year one PARCC results where students outperformed their wealthier  peers in the state.

"Fantastic opportunities are being created for children attending public charter schools," said Nicole D. Cole, president and CEO of the New Jersey Charter Schools Association. "It must be our state’s unified goal to ensure that academic opportunities exist for every child across the state, regardless of their ZIP code, skin color, socioeconomic standing, or the school they attend."

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