CharterFolk Contributor Rashaun Kemp – Charter School Leaders of Color Fill a Crucial Advocacy Role

Good morning, CharterFolk!

Today we are pleased to share a contributor column from Rashaun Kemp, the Senior Director of Advocacy and Stakeholder Engagement at the National Charter Collaborative (NCC).

Rashaun Kemp

I provide Rashaun’s bio below.

Rashaun is the Senior Director of Advocacy and Stakeholder Engagement at the National Charter Collaborative, where he is focused on amplifying the voices of Black and Brown public charter school leaders. He previously led a national non-profit organization, Freedom Coalition for Charter Schools (FCCS), serving as its first Executive Director. Rashaun’s professional career has afforded him the opportunity to lead a state education department and serve as a Government Affairs professional. He is also a former high school teacher and principal.

Rashaun recently announced his candidacy for State Representative in Georgia. He is an active member of his community having served as Chair of Neighborhood Planning Unit K. He also is an alumnus of New Leaders Council Atlanta. Rashaun has served on the boards of the Lillies Foundation, Ivy Preparatory Academy for Girls, and Georgia Equality. He actively volunteers in his community by doing food distribution in Douglas County and community cleanups in Fulton County. He is a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated.

A resident of Atlanta for over a decade, Rashaun is happily married to Ken Kemp, a middle school counselor and administrator in East Point. They are the proud parents of 2-year-old Brooklyn and 19-year-old Jaden, a sophomore at Tennessee State University.

The Kemps attend Impact United Methodist Church. They enjoy spending time with their families in Dublin, Georgia and Columbus, Ohio. In his free time, Rashaun enjoys staying up on the latest in politics, traveling, watching football, and playing tennis.

Charter School Leaders of Color Fill a Crucial Advocacy Role

When they see us, hear our stories, and learn about our impact, the needle is moved. Earlier this year I was honored to join a team of educational leaders one probably wouldn’t expect to see walking the halls of the U.S. Congress. NCC partnered with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, Diverse Charter Schools Coalition, and Freedom Coalition for Charter Schools to host the annual Charter School Leaders of Color DC Fly-In. Fifty school leaders of color representing 23 states and 41 legislative districts spent the day meeting with congressional members, leadership, and staff. In light of all that is taking place in our country, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on this experience and the importance of diverse voices engaging our lawmakers.

Our country continues to grapple with issues of systemic racism and racial inequality while combatting attempts to whitewash our history. There is a growing need to recognize the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of society, especially education. One crucial step towards achieving this goal is for leaders of color in the charter school space to meet with policymakers to advocate for changes that can help create a more equitable and just education system. These meetings are now just as critical at the state level as they are at the national level. Black, Brown, and Indigenous leaders in the charter school space know our work contributes to creating a more just educational system. Unfortunately, many lawmakers do not.

Charter school leaders of color are uniquely positioned to provide insights and perspectives on issues that impact students of color and our communities. By sharing our experiences and expertise earlier this year, we were helping to shape perceptions and policies that address some of the root causes of racial disparities in education; issues such as underfunding, inadequate resources, and lack of diversity in leadership. We highlighted the obstacles that make our jobs more difficult, such as the lack of access to facilities or the inability to retain high-quality educators due to the rising cost of living not being met by high enough investments in teacher pay. But we also created an opportunity to share our value within the sector. For example, most policymakers and their staff were surprised that charter schools have more teachers of color. According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, 31.5% of charter teachers are individuals of color compared to 19.3% of traditional public-school teachers. Charter schools also have more principals of color, with 33.4% of charter principals being individuals of color compared to 21.6% of traditional public school principals.

Events like our annual fly-in are important to help bridge the gap between policymakers and communities of color. Many lawmakers may not fully understand the challenges and issues facing our students and families, which can lead to ineffective or even downright harmful policies, as we have seen happen in many states. By meeting with our leaders of color, lawmakers on the Hill were able to gain a deeper understanding of the issues at hand and work collaboratively with us to develop solutions that are more effective and equitable.

The fifty leaders who met with policymakers provided valuable insights into the experiences of students of color and their families. NCC was honored to have members of our Manati Fellowship and founders of newly opened liberatory-focused schools join arms with leaders from across the country to share stories about the barriers our students face, such as discrimination, bias, and lack of resources. We came prepared with solutions and strategies that have been effective in addressing these challenges, such as the culturally responsive teaching that takes place in our schools. We also advocated for policies supporting historically underfunded schools and communities, such as the Charter School Program (CSP) grant. The CSP grant serves as a crucial lifeline for leaders in our communities who want to start a school but do not have access to the startup funds necessary to get a school off the ground. We all must continue to advocate for increases in the CSP grant because of the lifeline it gives so many leaders in our communities looking to develop high-quality schools for families who desperately need them.

We may not see the needle move within a short time frame of us being on the Hill, but our having been there mattered. The importance of school leaders of color meeting with lawmakers cannot be overstated. Charter school leaders of color matter. We bring a wealth of knowledge, experience, and insights crucial for shaping policies that promote diversity, equity, and the change we seek in our educational system. By working together, leaders of color and lawmakers can help create a more just and equitable education system that benefits all students, regardless of race or background.