Last Wednesday in Albany, I proudly stood with hundreds of New York City families — many hailing from my home borough of Brooklyn — to urge fellow lawmakers to support charter schools in achieving their #PathtoPossible vision, which calls for doubling the size of the public charter sector to 200,000 students by 2020.
The parents who came to Albany and their elected allies — including a number of my colleagues in the state Legislature — were inspired to join this movement because of the impact that public charter schools have had in their communities.
Let’s take as an example Brooklyn Prospect Charter School, which is located in the 21st Senate District, which I represent. At this public charter school, 46 percent of students are scoring at grade level in math and reading — eight points above the citywide average. This kind of impressive performance by public charter school students can be seen all over the city, most notably in underserved neighborhoods where families had previously been limited to low-performing district schools.
But the reality is that not every child is able to attend a high-performing quality public school like Brooklyn Prospect. Furthermore, public charter schools enroll more than 100,000 students each year, but still do not have room to accept all of the 44,000 families on their growing waitlists.
Expanding the public charter school sector to 200,000 students would provide every single child on the waitlist — and thousands more — with a seat at a high-performing public school, and would be a solid step towards shrinking the academic achievement gap that plagues black and brown communities.
More than 4,000 of these families live in the district I represent, and as their elected official I am duty-bound to advocate for getting their children off of the waitlist and into a charter school classroom. This desire to help my constituents and their neighbors across New York City access a wider range of quality public education options is what drives my support for the #PathtoPossible movement.
A deep commitment to education has been a hallmark of my life. This has taken me into classrooms in colleges across the city as a professor of political science and African-American studies. As an educator, I am attuned to the fact that the education children receive at age 10 wholly impacts the instruction they receive and retain at age 20. That is why it is so important to me that all families in New York City have the option to send their children to a great public school — whether they come from the Upper East Side of Manhattan or Central Brooklyn.
In my district and in many other neighborhoods across the city, this means making sure parents have access to high-performing public schools. Thus the #PathtoPossible becomes a critical movement in support of our children’s future. Working together, we can provide public charter schools with fair funding and equal access to public facilities which are critical components in reaching their 2020 goal. If we do our part now to support the #PathtoPossible vision, I am confident that we’ll soon see the results — not in abstract numbers, but reflected in the bright eyes of students who enter our college classrooms ready to learn and carrying the future of our nation on their backs.