Doing better for all children

Jarett Fields ER Room

Jarett Fields

Jarett Fields

Last year, when Nashville leaders were trying to place a moratorium on new charter schools, the response was overwhelming.

From County Boards and voters, to charter school leaders and education organizations, people protested and wrote letters.

One of those letters was written by Dr. Michael Lomax, the President and CEO of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF).

Like President Obama, Dr. Michael Lomax is an advocate for charter schools.

As head of the nation’s largest minority educational organization, he is a witness to the success of charter schools both professionally and personally.

Both were addressed in his letter to the Nashville Council.

Professionally, he said, the UNCF is “dedicated to making sure our children get the education they need to compete in the 21st-century economy.”

And personally, he revealed that his “grandchildren are attending high performing public charter schools.”

Lomax’s letter served as a call to recognize the vital role charter schools play in educating some of Tennessee’s children.

Instead of decrying Metro Nashville Public Schools, he celebrated their shared concern for “African-Americans from low-income families,” who make up a significant portion of Nashville’s students.

In promoting the success of charter schools, he cited research from Stanford University called the CREDO study.

The findings showed how even though charter schools had a disproportionate amount of minority and low-income students, those students outperformed traditional public school students by large margins.

Polls in Tennessee revealed that a significant majority of voters in the state support charter schools.

Similarly, polls have shown that a majority of voters in Wisconsin support charter schools.

And yet, at a time when Wisconsin has the opportunity to expand high quality charters under the direction of universities and other education institutions, we are putting politics before students.

Recent studies have shown that students in independent charter schools outperform their peers in Milwaukee Public Schools.

The reasons for this vary but what is important to remember is that charter schools play an important role in the lives of many students.

There is no denying that large public school districts face real budget shortages but the answer is not to deny quality schools from replicating or universities from using their knowledge and resources to meet the needs of struggling families.

Both traditional public schools and public charter schools have important roles to play.

The work for our legislators is to pass policies that ensure all of our families have access to high quality education, whether it comes through traditional public schools or charter schools is a decision for our families but we must do better for all children.