Ten days ago the New Jersey Public Charter Schools Association, on behalf of 65 signatories, sent a letter to the Democratic Platform Committee expressing their “deep disapppointment” with the Committee’s language on education because it is “harmful to charter schools, and the students and families we are honored to serve.
Mr. Biden should be careful not to turn his back on the Black, Brown and working-class families in New Jersey who support him, and who also overwhelmingly support public charter schools. Of the more than 55,000 students who attend 87 of New Jersey’s public charter schools, 73% are from low-income families, 50% are Black, and 35% are Latinx. There are also 36,000 students languishing on charter school wait lists. In fact, one in six students in New Jersey’s poorest communities attends a public charter school. In urban communities across the New Jersey, these voters showed up for him and secured his place as the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. He should not repay them by jeopardizing their children’s schools.
The signatories, who include NJ public charter school teachers, administrators, staff, advocates, and NJPCSA President and CEO Harry Lee, have three specific concerns about the Committee’s educational platform.
First, they question why “charter schools are inexplicably excluded from the list of ‘public school pathways’ to greater opportunity for students. The list of pathways includes career and technical education, magnet schools, International Baccalaureate programs, and early college high schools. Those are all parts of a vibrant public education system— but so are public charter schools, which have a strong and inclusive track record, especially in New Jersey.”
Yet the erasure of public charter schools from the list of pathways is more than inexplicable:
It’s especially egregious to leave our schools out when polls show that Black and Latinx parents and voters strongly support charter schools. And they support them with good reason: charter schools in New Jersey have a track record of serving these students very well. Black charter school students performed 12 percentage points higher in English Language Arts (ELA) and 14 percentage points higher in math on statewide assessments than Black students statewide. Latinx charter school students performed 5 percentage points higher in ELA and 4 percentage points in math compared to their statewide counterparts. Similarly, charter school students from low-income families performed 9 percentage points in ELA and 10 percentage points in math versus the rest of the state. It is shocking that policy purporting to represent the Democratic Party would call for denying resources to the very schools that deliver exceptional outcomes for students of color and thosefrom low-income households.
Second, these champtions for public school choice call “absurd” the Committee’s recommendation that “federal funding for charter schools be contingent upon approval by a school district.” Why? Because “many school districts vew charter schools as competitors” despite clear data that shows that “many districts have been systematically underserving the same communities for generations.” Studies have found that attending, for example, a Newark charter school “has a larger effect than 80% of other educational interventions.”
Third, letter-signers are troubled by the recommendation for “increased federal regulation of charter schools, which would “override local control by charter school authorizers.” After all, states — especially NJ — “already hold charter schools to higher standards of transparency and accountability than district schools.”
These tactics are to be expected of charter school opponents who will stop at nothing to maintain the status quo, kill innovation, and even deny educational opportunities to the students who need them most. But Mr. Biden and party leaders know better. On behalf of our families and educators, we strongly urge him to reconsider these recommendations that are harmful to charter schools.
Charter schools serve a greater proportion of Black and Brown students and students from low-income communities than district schools. When you shortchange charter schools, you shortchange those families. There are 3.3 million students in charter schools across the country, and their parents, teachers and schoolleaders vote.
For a full copy of the letter and the list of signatories, click here: https://njleftbehind.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Democratic-Platform-Committee-Letter_August-13-2020.pdf. For my own thoughts on the Platform Committee recommendations, see here.