Op-Ed: Charter Schools Are The Path To Possible



Earlier this month, a new report caught my eye. It was called “The Path to Possible,” and some of its analysis was focused on students with disabilities. My son, Muhammed Awal, was recently diagnosed with a learning disability. He is in second grade at his zoned Bronx school, and they just don’t know how to teach students with disabilities. This paper proved that not only is my experience sadly normal in district schools, but that there is also an amazing solution: public charter schools.

When Muhammed Awal first started having problems learning, his school let him fall behind. I had to push hard to get them to have my son evaluated. When he was finally given an IEP, he was way too far behind his peers. I didn’t know what to do. I know other parents at the school who have had to hire private tutors just to get their child on track. I am a mother of three, and I can’t afford that kind of help. And then I found out about Boys Prep Bronx charter school.

Boys Prep said they could help Muhammed Awal get up to speed, so I applied. Now I know for sure that they were right: charter schools are the best option for students with disabilities. The data in this new report shows that in some of the lowest performing districts in New York City, including in the Bronx, only five percent of students with disabilities in district schools pass the state exams. Charter school students with disabilities in those districts do more than five times better!

Right now, Muhammed Awal is on the waitlist for Boys Prep Bronx. He so close, but still stuck in his district school. Why? I assumed it was because there just wasn’t any more room for more charter school students in New York City. Why else would this proven solution for students with disabilities be limited? But that turns out not to be true. In fact, there are 150,000 open seats in the city, and hundreds of public buildings with more than enough space for an entirely new public charter school.

So why is my son on a waitlist? What is stopping charter schools from using these empty classrooms? What is keeping Muhammed Awal in a district school that doesn’t provide the excellent education that public charter schools do? One word: politics.

The Mayor’s administration seems committed to obstructing the expansion of public charter schools at all cost. This must end. I know they have seen the same data I have. They know that the best option for my son and all students with disabilities is a public charter school.

Maybe this new report is just the push they need to finally embrace the solution that works for New York City’s highest-need kids. Maybe with this evidence, they will finally choose the welfare of children over political fighting. Maybe Muhammed Awal will finally be able to go to the school that will put him on the path to success. But until that time, I will keep spreading the word. I will keep pushing until everyone knows that public charter schools are the proven solution that our children deserve.

Sadatu Mamah-Trawill is a parent from the Bronx. Her son Muhammed Awal is in the 2nd grade at a district school in the Bronx.

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