Good morning CharterFolk!
Today we are pleased to share a contributor column from Jay Artis-Wright, Executive Director of the Freedom Coalition for Charter Schools.
I provide Jay’s bios below.
Jay Artis-Wright is the executive director of the Freedom Coalition for Charter Schools (FCCS) an organization established in 2019 to bring the voices of Black and Brown charter school leaders, founders, advocates, and families to the forefront. She has more than 20 years of experience holding diverse roles in education that intersect advocacy, political campaigning, leadership development, and community organizing. Before stepping up to lead FCCS, Jay was one of the key members of the organization in the trenches during the 2020 presidential candidate debates. She was a key strategist and organizer, building relationships with school leaders and parents across the country.
Prior to leading FCCS, Jay was the Executive Director of Parent Revolution, a parent-based advocacy organization, and Vice President of Policy and Public Affairs for the California Charter Schools Association. From leading policy initiatives focused on education equity, teacher diversity, and school funding to building outreach strategies for education-based legal challenges, Jay’s multifaceted career also includes training advocates on organizing and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). She has successfully secured policy wins for charter schools and coached parents and teachers running for local school board seats.
A dedicated advocate for quality schools, Jay started her career with Upward Bound, a Federal Trio Program designed to provide college preparation for first-generation, low-income high school students. She was also a founding board member of a charter school in Plainfield, New Jersey and worked exclusively on the growth and expansion of charter schools led and founded by educators of color. Jay holds a master’s degree in Urban Development from University of Southern California and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from CSU Sacramento. An avid world-traveler, Jay has lived in several countries around the globe and currently resides in southern California with her husband and three children.
Take 60 Seconds Tomorrow to Support Philadelphia Charters, the AACSC, and FCCS
The time to standup for charters is now. There are actions all over the country. Find one and boost those efforts. Tomorrow, the African American Charter School Coalition (AACSC) is making a call to action to support three charter schools threatened with closure in Philadelphia this week. The Freedom Coalition for Charter Schools (FCCS) is responding and asking each of us to take 60 seconds to join tomorrow’s twitter storm.
There appears to be a disturbing trend emerging that is disproportionately impacting Black and Brown charter school students, notably this week in Philadelphia and Atlanta. There is currently an independent review of the Philadelphia School District ‘s (PSD) oversight of charter schools, with evidence that schools founded and led by Black educators are unfairly targeted for closure. Regardless, last week the PSD staff proposed to the board the closure of two more Black-led charter schools, with a vote for action set for this Thursday. This proposed action ignores the prevailing guidance to not close schools given the impacts of the COVID pandemic and lack of statewide school performance data.
AACSC is engaged with state and local elected officials who agree that PSD’s actions are cause for great concern. They include Pennsylvania State Senators Anthony H. Williams and Sharif Street as well as Philadelphia City Council Members Isaiah Thomas, Maria Q. Sanchez, and Mark Squilla. The message coming from AACSC, and state and local officials is clear – in the wake of the global pandemic, a more “reasonable” course of action relative to Philadelphia charter renewals is to WAIT before deciding based on data for the last two school years, as was the case in California, Georgia, and Delaware.
The National Association of Charter School Authorizers issued guidance last summer recommending that renewal considerations carefully balance the impacts of the pandemic given missing or incomplete statewide school performance data. The Philadelphia Charter School Office (CSO) also recommended a pause during last year’s board presentation – that they would not issue any non-renewals for last year and this year. The unreasonable course of action is to NOT renew charters, as PSD has done and seemingly intends to continue doing.
As FCCS learns more details, it’s hard not to draw parallels between the issues raised at the Washington, DC Day of Action event in May, what’s unfolding in Philadelphia, and what’s now happening to the Black-led charter schools in Atlanta. In Philadelphia, there’s an ongoing independent investigation of racial bias and discrimination in the oversight, renewal, and expansion opportunities of Black founded and led public charter schools by the PSD, the CSO, and its new Director Peng Chao. In Atlanta, Black charter school founders were informed just weeks before opening their doors to serve enrolled students that their once-valid certifications were suddenly being denied.
Taken together, this points to a troubling trend that warrants greater attention – and serves as a cautionary tale about what can happen when public school districts have authorizing power over public charter schools established to serve families seeking an alternative to public schools. The unfortunate reality of this dynamic creates an even greater devastating impact for the Black and Brown families who attend these charter schools, which are in high poverty neighborhoods like North and Southwest Philadelphia, and adds to the level of stress and trauma these families face having to worry about whether they have a safe, culturally competent, quality school to attend this fall.