Funding city charters preserves choice

Baltimore cannot afford another leader who fails to recognize the value that charter schools bring to the city

As lifelong residents of Baltimore, my family and I feel a strong commitment to the city, and it was important to us that we send our two boys to a public school. After extensive research, Patterson Park Public Charter School represented the best option for my family because of its diversity and commitment to providing high quality academics that prepare children to be leaders in the community. Class sizes are reasonable, classroom climate is safe and positive, and the teachers and administration are the most fantastic and enthusiastic group of individuals we have met. From field trips to nearby Patterson Park for nature lessons to community service day, our children learn how to embrace and respect their city, using Baltimore as their classroom. Our boys are thriving early on in their academic lives, and this will undoubtedly have an enduring effect as they progress through school.

With this in mind, it is of great concern that the current Baltimore City Public Schools administration is denying funds to children who are thriving in the public school system, directly risking proven student outcomes in our charter schools. With charter enrollment on the rise while traditional school enrollment declines, I question why our school board and district leaders would want to put these schools in a position that may force them close. Charters succeed because their funding model allows the schools to be flexible and responsive to the community each serves, as well as to support alternative educational programming. Importantly, the charter model is gaining ground among leaders of education reform because it is increasing success rates in all student populations including low-income students. Without adequate funding, charter schools struggle to survive, and parents suffer from lack of choice for their children. A recent Baltimore Sun article quoted the executive director of KIPP charter school saying this year's budget cuts will result in over a dozen staff layoffs, including teachers of critical subjects. These layoffs and sacrifices at charters are alarming, as I truly believe that without the option of Patterson Park Public Charter School and other charter schools, the city's educational options are limited, and my family, like so many others that move to the county, could be forced to sever our ties with the city we love.

Equally disconcerting is the current narrative created by the BCPS administration suggesting that charter school students receive more funding than they deserve compared to traditional school students. This narrative is based on the idea that the charter school community represents a socioeconomically privileged group and that reducing funding to charter schools in order to support traditional schools would level the playing field, leading to equity and equality. The reality is that 10,000 of the more than 13,000 students who attend Baltimore City charters are from low-income families, according to an analysis of students eligible for free and reduced-price meals. The fact is, the charter school community closely mirrors the larger traditional school community. As a result, the narrative that the BCPS administration has created does not hold water. As a parent who chose a charter school for my child, what I want, and what all parents want regardless of their socioeconomic status, is equal funding for all public school students — no more, no less. We need to seek equity and equality and work with our school system to make sure as many resources as possible go directly to schools.

Baltimore City Public Schools must ensure that all of its schools are funded adequately so that students have the opportunity to get an excellent education in traditional and charter schools alike. Parents should have as many options as possible to find a school that fits the standards and needs of their children. Patterson Park Public Charter and many other charter schools have been so uniquely tailored to address the needs of their students and families and have been adding much enrichment to this city.

My family and I are looking forward to the new leadership of Sonja Santelises. We hope that as the mother of three Baltimore public charter students, she will prioritize equitable funding for all city school children. We cannot afford another leader who fails to recognize the value that charter schools bring to the city.

Jason Trageser is a Baltimore parent with two children in a public charter school. His email is trageserj@gmail.com.

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