Weekend greetings, CharterFolk.
It’s been quite a while since we have had so many favorable responses to a Contributor Column as we received this week regarding Danyela Souza Egorov’s post about her recent run for state senate.
It is, in my estimation, one of the most noble things a CharterFolk can do – putting yourself out there in the public realm in support of charter schools by running for elected office, as both Danyela and RaShaun Holliman did this last cycle.
Each of us who runs for office helps surface, as Danyela certainly did in her column last week, the political and advocacy realities that lie before the movement, themes we explore often here at CharterFolk:
- The need to keep building political infrastructure;
- The need to keep growing the participation of parents;
- And the need to carry new messages that resonate with the public.
We tend to pay a lot of attention to these matters during election season.
But we also know that what matters most is what happens in between elections.
You don’t build political infrastructure, or bring in the participation of parents, or develop resonant new messaging in the weeks leading up to an election.
You do those things months, years, even decades in advance.
Danyela’s comments about new messages strike a chord in particular right now.
Often during election season, things have been so toxic for charter schools in between elections that our sense is that only candidates who downplay their charterness will prove viable. So we end up supporting candidates who have to pretend that they don’t support us as much as they do, or candidates who are actually only lukewarm on our issues.
This is why one of the most important things we need right now is a compelling policy agenda we can coalesce around to advance in between elections – a policy agenda that makes the case for why charter schools exist and shows us unapologetically standing on the side of kids and families.
The kind of policy agenda that, come election time, a candidate would proudly want to stand behind.
Not just policy proposals seeking to grow the number of students attending high quality charter schools, though obviously those proposals are immensely important to us.
But, rather, a full basket of proposals showing that what we seek is a public education system that has become greatly more public for all students and families.
For many years, I would argue, we have shied away from attempting to advance such a policy agenda. It has equated to a kind of reticence to make our own best argument in the public realm.
Danyela’s piece asserts that the public is in fact ready for that argument.
I was pleasantly surprised by how receptive the public is to the message of school choice. I expected to get pushback but was not prepared for how much support I would receive for my position on school choice. Charter parents, obviously, would come and tell me that choosing a charter school had been the best decision they made for their kids. Voters in low-income areas know families who send their kids to charters and understand that these schools are way better than the district schools. I was most surprised by higher-income voters’ support for school choice: they want their kids to get a great education at their local schools, but they also understand that this is not the reality in every neighborhood. There is a general understanding of how dysfunctional and expensive our school district is, and the public knows that only school choice can bring some hope of offering a high quality education to the kids who need it the most.
But it’s not just Danyela’s experience that argues for the charter school movement making its best argument.
… public polling …
… is now …
… abundant …
… that confirms …
… Danyela’s experience.
And the longest term perspective …
… is perhaps the most compelling of all.
Never mind the partisan aspect highlighted in the 74 article. Just look at the decades-long trend:
Parents and the general public are ready for something new in public education.
And that, in my view, is what is incumbent upon us all to bring.
In so doing, not only will we find, like Danyela found during her campaign, a response from the public that many might think surprising …
… and not only will we find new ways to give Danyela, RaShaun and all other charter-supportive candidates for office much firmer ground to stand on the next time they run …
… but we will find perhaps the most important thing of all.
Something I have been writing about here since CharterFolk’s very first day:
That which needs to be heard louder today than ever before …
… our collective voice.