Op-Ed: Students need more options, including charters

As a parent, I was deeply disappointed to read about Melodie Peters’ insatiable grudge against a charter school community of less than two-dozen schools. Peters seems to ignore the 40,000 Black, Hispanic, and low-income children who currently attend 63 severely underperforming public schools.

In just one of these failing schools, only about one in 21 third-graders reached grade level in reading in 2013. The problem is worse for minorities. In that same school, of the 64 third-graders tested, none of the 23 black students reached goal, and only two out of 32 of Hispanic students reached goal.

Op-ed submit bugIn the Op-Ed Peters submitted to the Mirror, she said taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to invest in charter schools, claiming the system isn’t proven.

Ms. Peters’ approach to education, which ignores the realities of students trapped in failing schools, is dangerous for all minority and low-income students and families fighting for educational equality.

Ms. Peters, I know what it’s like to see your child attend a failing school day after day. Do you?

When I moved to Connecticut from Pennsylvania, my son, who is in a wheelchair, was a top student on track to graduate with honors and attend college. But when I enrolled him in our local, low-performing school, they told him he couldn’t attend regular classes, and despite my pleas to the contrary, he was siphoned off with other disabled students.

Over the next year I watched my son’s love of learning disappear. He wasn’t being challenged, so his grades dropped dramatically and every morning he begged me to let him stay home from school.

My son was saved when we found Common Ground High School in New Haven. He makes the trek there every day from Bridgeport, and he’s gone back to loving school and excelling in the classroom.

If Ms. Peters had her way, Common Ground wouldn’t exist and my son would still be stuck in a failing school that refused to give him the opportunity to succeed. That can not happen.

For too many students, the system is simply broken. The traditional school funding system leaves thousands of children from Hartford, New Haven, Waterbury, and Bridgeport behind while students from wealthier areas find themselves with an abundance of support and opportunities.

Ms. Peters’ grudge against charter schools shouldn’t hold any children back from getting a great education.

From where my kids and I sit, we have a long way to go before all schools are setting every child up for success.

The thousands of students enrolled in high-performing charter schools throughout the state and the hundreds of educators who are providing those students with high-quality instruction would disagree with Ms. Peters’ assessment of charters.

Schools like Common Ground – with a  a 92  percent college acceptance rate – end the debate about whether charter schools are working. The staff and curriculum there make me feel confident that my son will graduate with the tools he needs to succeed, and go on to do great things with his life.

If we take Ms. Peters’ and her dangerous rhetoric to heart, thousands of families who are waiting for better schools will remain trapped indefinitely in the lowest-performing schools.

Our children are worth the investment.

With too few students statewide meeting grade level goals, especially students of color and students in poverty, we can’t afford to ignore any option that is working for children. Charter schools have forged the way for a much needed education alternative for black, Hispanic and low-income students. Ms. Peters is apparently against that.

It’s time to stop the ideological wars and collaborate to give the 40,000 kids currently trapped in chronically failing traditional schools another option.

Idella Kelsey-Bullock is a Bridgeport parent of two charter school students, one at Park City Prep in Bridgeport and one at Common Ground High School in New Haven.

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