The American Dream of a Quality Education
In the daily cycle of Presidential news, sometimes a really important policy stance gets lost in the shuffle. In early September Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, proposed to redirect $20 billion in his first budget proposal to expand school choice for poor families. He proposed to establish a block grant for 11 million school aged children from underserved populations, letting the funds follow the student instead of funds forcing students into failed public schools.
This would be a game changer in allowing parents (especially low income parents) to get the quality education their children deserve.
When I visited two charter schools in Denver Colorado in August I learned about the value of dollars following the student who chooses a school that best fits his/her needs. This is especially true for students of color. 46.9% of the charter school population in Colorado are students of color. These students are allowed to enroll across district lines by using Colorado’s open enrollment system.Currently, there are 226 charters schools and one-third of the state’s districts have a charter school in them.
What it has accomplished is amazing. In 2005, when charter schools began taking off in the Denver public school system, less than 39% of students graduated on time. By 2016 an astonishing 65% of students graduated on time. In that time Denver public schools have closed or replaced 48 underperforming schools and opened 70 new mostly charter schools.
At the Denver charter school Strive Prep, the student body is made of 97% students of color, and 87% are low income students. In itsfirst graduating class Strive Prep had a 92% acceptance into a four year college.Simply put, Denver charter schools are outperforming their traditional public school counterparts.
For years people on both sides of the political divide have bemoaned the public school in low income areas. Many of these schools are without motivational teachers, sound infrastructure, and up to date technology. The charter schools in Colorado proved that these things can be addressed and made right with the right communication within the community needs, and in an atmosphere of choice and cooperation.
It’s so much more than just a policy, its children’s lives and future at stake. Listen to Virginia Walden Ford, a national board member of The Black Alliance for Educational Options, and serves on the D.C. Advisory Committee of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. Her experience echoes so many who have children trapped in failing public schools http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/28/im-a-black-woman-whose-relatives-fought-for-civil-rights-im-disappointed-in-naacps-war-on-school-choice/
“As a young mother raising kids in Washington, D.C., when I found my son failing in school and honestly needing to be in a different kind of educational environment, I had no choice but to continue sending him to a public school that was not in his best interest. Had it not been for the generosity of a neighbor who saw something special in my son and provided a scholarship for him to attend a school that better met his needs, I shudder to think where my son would be now.
Because of that scholarship, he was able to be successful and graduate and move forward with his life. This is what I’ve seen over the years with the children who havehad access to school choice, including public charter schools and private and public scholarship programs like the tuition tax credit scholarship program in Florida.
I’ve watched them succeed when most people expected them to fail. I’ve seen children go on to college when this possibility had never even been discussed with them. I’ve seen entire communities come out and support the families whose children were thriving in schools that their parents chose. It’s been incredible seeing low-income families obtaining the American dream because their children were able to obtain a quality education.”
When charter schools give students the ability to choose what is best for them, the community is made better, education improves, and our public money is better spent.