By Patricia Huertas
When my oldest son, William, was entering first grade, I entered him in a lottery for one of New York City’s high performing public charter schools. I signed William up for a public charter school because I wanted to see him thrive in school and enjoy learning, and I feared that this might not happen if he attended a local district school in our Bronx neighborhood. Because there were so few open seats, William waited to get into a public charter school for every year up until middle school, but ultimately I had to take him off the waitlist. I couldn’t find a school that had the capability to accept him at the time and that worked for me as a single mom.
William is 15 now, and he has only attended district schools. He’s grown up to be a good student, and I’m incredibly proud of him, but I can’t help thinking that he would have gotten a better education if he had gone to public charter schools. My daughter, Alicia, attends first grade at Icahn Charter School, a public charter school several blocks from our home, and I see her school gives her a level of support and encouragement that William never received. I wish that William could have had the same opportunities that Alicia is now lucky enough to enjoy.
Now I know that things might have been different if I was a Deputy Mayor instead of a regular mom.
According to the New York Post, Deputy Mayor Richard Buery used his connections with the Department of Education to get his son into the school they chose – MS 51 in Park Slope – before the start of the school year.
What’s amazing is that Deputy Mayor Buery still wasn’t satisfied. He complained that his son couldn’t be accepted in the spring, when the family wasn’t even living in the city yet, and had wrote emails saying: “Obviously we can’t wait until [August] to have clarity on where our children will go to school.” I was outraged when I read these words. Thousands of city parents have had the worrying experience of not knowing where our children would attend school while we remained on a waiting list, but because we’re not part of Mayor de Blasio’s inner circle nothing was done to ease our minds.
In fact, Mayor de Blasio and the Department of Education have only made things worse for parents like me. They’ve blocked the majority of public charter schools’ applications for public facilities, preventing these schools from accessing the space they need to accept more kids off of waiting lists. And they’ve spoken out against public charter schools receiving fair and equal funding, which would also help them serve more students. Because of these actions, 44,000 are still stuck on charter school waiting lists, and this number grows every year.
The de Blasio administration, which claims to care about students from every neighborhood and background, has put parents in an impossible situation. We have to wait years to get our kids into the schools we want – if they get in at all – because the city is biased against charter schools and doesn’t believe in parent choice (unless the parent is a Deputy Mayor). But if we take our names off the waiting lists, like I ultimately had to, we run the risk of giving up on a great education for our kids.
Instead of hand picking which kids get the best possible public education, the de Blasio administration should pursue policies that give every student this opportunity. That means making sure parents can choose the option that works for their children, no matter what they do for a living and no matter what kind of public school they prefer. And it means giving public charter schools the resources they need to welcome more kids. William is worth just as much as Deputy Mayor Buery’s son, and so are all of the kids who are still waiting to attend public charter schools. It’s time for the city to start acting like it.
Patricia Huertas is a Bronx mother of three.