Charter Schools

Real Freedom Looks Like Black and Latinx Families Having the Power to Choose Their Own Schools

The Biden administration’s proposed new rules for the Charter Schools Program (CSP) would shift power away from Black families like mine, who support public charters, toward school districts and DC bureaucrats. Specifically, the proposed new CSP rules would require charters to prove ‘unmet demand’ before a new charter school would be eligible for funding. 

This requirement ignores the fact that there are often open seats in a district, but they are in schools that are failing students like mine.

Our children shouldn’t be relegated to just any open seat, they deserve a high-quality public education seat. 

The same new set of rules would require charter applicants to propose racially and economically diverse models. While having diverse schools is a noble goal, this requirement could limit the ability of charters to serve students in the very neighborhood where they are located. 

This is a time when we should be expanding choice for families, not restricting them through burdensome guidelines. If the proposed CSP rules are adopted, Black and Latinx families, like mine, will have far less power to pick the right quality education for our kids.  

Here’s How KIPP Stood By My Family

Families need to send their children to a school that provides proper education and support to both students and parents. My family has personally experienced what that looks like. KIPP Public Schools stood by me when I most needed them, and it is my turn to stand by them. 

Let me tell you why.

After sending my daughters to parochial schools, just as my mother had done with me, and being more than disappointed with the academic outcomes, I discovered KIPP Philadelphia Public Schools for my youngest, my son Romao. In order to get into a KIPP school, a home visit was required. 

My entire village attended the interview. This encounter fortified in my mind that my son was going to receive a quality education. A partnership between my son, the school, and me was born—the Three-Legged Stool. 

Romao's journey at KIPP started in sixth grade, but he was on a third-grade reading level. In just one year, Romao started to flourish. He was ranked 18th out of 127 students in his class. When it was time to attend high school, there was no doubt that he would attend KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy.

On September 13, 2013, while traveling on three buses to get to high school, Romao was hit by a car. He suffered a broken jaw in three places; a medical coma was necessary because of the pressure on his brain. 

During that dark period, our KIPP family visited, called, texted, sent cards, and continued to show love for our family. For three months, Romao remained in the hospital, recovering. To regain his academic prowess, he worked with the special education teams. 

Upon Romao's release from the hospital, the KIPP staff personally worked with the therapist, neurologist, and psychologist. Together, they created an individual learning program for a student with a traumatic brain injury that would ensure his future success.  

Romao's college search was arduous. An institution that would cater to his learning needs was the challenge. Again, KIPP came to our side in this quest. I spent most of my time visiting the KIPP career counseling office. With their help, I felt comfortable selecting a college that was a proper fit. Plus, they held my hand during the process. Who does that? Romao finished his senior year on time and attended college. 

My son not only blossomed academically at KIPP, but everyone in his school helped us recover from the worst thing that ever happened to our family. 

More Families Need Schools Where Teachers Go the Extra Mile 

We need schools like KIPP where teachers genuinely care about the students' education. Not only do they educate, but they also hold students accountable for their education and teach them to advocate for themselves. These are the qualities that make for a citizen of whom we all can be proud. 

I know it was more than just about me, other families needed those schools, too.

Romao has long since graduated from KIPP Philadelphia, and I have grandchildren now.

I want my grandchildren to have the same nurturing, safe, accountable, and educational experience Romao received. 

I see that possibly slipping away for thousands of families if high-quality charters like KIPP don’t get the funding they need to launch new schools.

Not long ago, I stood outside the White House with thousands more parents to fight for the right to have high-quality, public charters for families around the country. If Biden and Cardona really care about Black and Latinx families, they cannot approve the new CSP rules.

Toya Algarin
Toya Algarin is a mother and grandmother in Philadelphia. As a result of her positive experiences with KIPP, she joined the KIPP Philadelphia Schools board of directors in 2015 and has served on the board for more than seven years.

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