Retired educator, Aaron Fernander would often quote to us in staff meetings, “Teach the children!”
Over a decade ago, then Principal Aaron Fernander of Ralph Johnson Bunche Middle School was known for telling not just the teachers but all the educators that came into contact with the students of our school to simply teach the children.
The concern then wasn’t focused on what entity, public or charter schools were educating children better. We were focused on teaching the children.
Years later, the debate against public schools and charter schools continues with data reports focusing on the success of charters as many public schools are still struggling.
I just simply can’t keep going along to get along with these conversations on what school is performing the best when children are being underserved, used and quite honestly failed.
Failed by a public education system. Not the public schools in our communities, nor charter schools helping to elevate the much needed conversation around school improvement.
School choice means that parents have an additional opportunity to choose the schools their child(ren) will attend for elementary and secondary education. It helps remove the red tape that pushes parents out of schools, silences teachers and fails our students.
Public education systems are designed to assign children to schools where they live. Funding formulas are then set up to determine the success of the academic programs, the students and the communities they reside. Charter schools disrupt this formula which allows children across communities and zip codes to be intentionally left behind.
School choice isn’t the problem, the problem is our inability to accept that public schools continue to struggle because the system is failing to embrace change.
Change that means parents have the right to be engaged with and in conversations about the type of school academic programs being offered to their child(ren), students having a say so in the policies used to govern them, teachers and educators voices being involved in school budgets, teaching and learning models.
School choice is a spring board for parent, student and teacher empowerment! It should be a gateway for us to begin challenging a system that continues to fail children, specifically Black, brown, poor whites, indigenous, LGBTQ+, disabled, mixed raced children whose families depend on a public education system to help them reach the notion of the American dream.
But this dream is a living nightmare for the children who fit into the categories aforementioned because the public education system continues to fail them and lead them to illiteracy, under or unemployment, poverty and the school-to-prison pipeline.
If we truly believe that no child deserves to be left behind, then we’d stop attacking the schools, public or charter, within our community and actually hold the system for educating children in America accountable for providing quality, fair, free and equitable ways.
Jason B. Allen was raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He is an 18-year veteran educator and National Organizing Director for the National Parents Union. He has served as a classroom Language Arts, Reading and Special Education teacher, District Administrator, School Administrator, board member and Chair of Ivy Prep Academy network. Jason earned his Bachelor of Arts in English and Masters of Art of Teaching Special Education. He is a member of the American Association of Educators and involved in the Fellowship Advocacy helping to elevate the educators voice.