OPINION: Bronx Public School Parents Want to be Heard

By Cecilia Taveras

When it comes to public education in the Bronx, Mayor de Blasio is better at talking than he is at listening. Last month, when the Mayor visited my borough for a week, he spent a lot of time announcing new education programs and tweeting about the improvements he saw happening in Bronx public schools. But what he didn’t do, and hasn’t done yet during his time in office, is really listen to public school families.

If the Mayor were to listen to Bronx parents like me, he would hear that the improvements he points to are happening far too slowly to have any real impact on our kids’ lives. He would hear that our borough has far too many bad schools, schools that families are desperate to avoid because the students there are almost guaranteed to fall behind. And he would hear that families want access to the few good schools, like the Bronx’s public charters, but are often stuck on waiting lists because there aren’t enough seats for every child who applies.

This is how I felt when it was time for me to enroll my kids in school. As long as I’ve lived in the South Bronx, I’ve known that none of the district schools in my neighborhood were a good choice for them. So, when my daughter Sabrina was starting school back in 2003, I put her name in the lottery for a seat at Bronx Charter School for the Arts.

Luckily, Sabrina won a spot there, so we didn’t have to go on the waiting list. Years later, I went through the same process with my son Carlos, who’s in fourth grade at South Bronx Classical Charter School I, and then with my daughter Angel, who goes to kindergarten at the same school as her brother.

All three of them have benefited so much from their public charter education. Sabrina is attending John Jay College and doing great, and my two youngest are happy at SBC I. And I couldn’t be more relieved. Instead of hoping that my kids would be okay at a district school and waiting for things to improve, I know that their charter schools take care of them and put them on a path towards success.

This is happening at public charter schools all over the Bronx. Public charter school students across the borough are twice as likely as district school students to read and do math on grade level. They’re also more likely to graduate from high school than district school students.

Looking at these numbers, it’s obvious why so many Bronx parents like me have turned to public charter schools. Because these schools offer a high quality education that can’t be found at district schools, they’ve attracted tens of thousands of applications every year. For the 2017-2018 school year alone, public charters in the Bronx received 21,000 applications. But because less than 6,000 seats were available, more than 15,000 kids ended up on a waiting list.

If Mayor de Blasio would take the time to truly listen to parents in the Bronx, he would hear all about this demand for seats and limited supply. Then, hopefully, he would do his part to solve the problem by supporting public charter schools and helping them grow to accept more students. Schools like Bronx Charter School for the Arts and South Bronx Classical’s public charters are a necessary part of public education in the Bronx, and an important key to our children’s futures. The sooner the Mayor listens to this message, the better.

Cecilia Taveras is a Bronx mother of three.

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