Charter schools do serve ‘actual students,’ and families choose these schools for a reason

I was pleased to read a Star Tribune counterpoint written by a parent who pushed back against the claims by Steve Marchese, a St. Paul school board member, that school choice advocates refuse to examine the effects educational freedom has on “actual students.”

Myisha Holley, a St. Paul parent, stated that school choice has empowered her as a parent and her children as learners in ways that go beyond mere talking points, as Marchese argues.

Many school choice advocates are the “actual students” and families affected by Minnesota’s education system. And we care immensely.

When we talk about high-quality education, how often are students at the center of that conversation? Too often it leaves out why families like mine seek out charter schools. The answer is that choice allows families to find the best fit for their children in the face of a school system that often fails them.

When a parent sees that their student’s needs aren’t being met, they deserve options. My daughters can’t wait for the system to right itself. Enrolling in a variety of schools, including charters, has allowed me to find the best educational settings to support each child’s potential.

Holley continues by pointing out that Marchese’s attack on school choice advocates and charter schools does not help our education system get better or change the status quo.

Having a choice in my child’s education gives my voice back in a way that wasn’t possible inside a slow-moving system. Charter schools offer different options that work for different kids, but that doesn’t have to make it a competition. Instead, we need to focus on collaboration to do what’s best for kids. That might mean some changes from what we’ve always done, but the status quo has been broken for too long.

According to the Center’s most recent Thinking Minnesota Poll, 71 percent of Minnesotans support an exploratory small-scale experimental pilot program that would allow students in one or two failing school districts to attend a public or private school of their choice and then after two years compare test results with their peers at the original school.

Continuing to repeat education “reforms” that do not help remedy the racial division of education leaves too many Minnesota students sitting on the sidelines and unprepared for life outside of the classroom.