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Are We Doing Enough to Affect Change in Education?

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On Thursday, May 7th, Paul Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. hosted its 2nd Annual “My Brother’s Keeper…Responding to the Call” event focused on effective efforts to prepare young boys of color for college and community action surrounding those strategies. The forum strengthened the dialogue about key issues like inequality and the achievement gap, an especially significant discussion given the recent happenings in Baltimore, Maryland.

Jami Dunham, CEO of Paul Public Charter School, D.C. native, and Howard University alumna, explained how central education is to helping the country’s most disadvantaged communities, telling those in attendance last night, “What happened in Baltimore is a reflection of the adult culture that has failed those children. We as adults have failed to give them the tools to succeed.”

Dr. Robert Simmons, Chief Innovation Officer at D.C. Public Schools, challenged the audience, saying, “D.C. could easily become Baltimore. We need to ask ourselves if we are doing enough to affect change in education.”

And in fact, just today the Washington Post Editorial Board made this same connection, writing:

The state of Baltimore’s public schools was spotlighted in the aftermath of riots that rocked a city mourning the death of a young black man, Freddie Gray, while in police custody. Bad schools are only one element of urban dysfunction. But they are both a consequence and a cause of inequality, and improving them is essential to keeping another generation from being trapped by poverty. There’s no excusing violence. But as the attorney for Mr. Gray’s family said of the young people who took part in the rioting, “The education system has failed them.

Giving poor parents the kind of alternatives that wealthier families take for granted would help. Some competitive pressure on the school system might help, too. But Maryland is so hostile to charter schools that many children in Baltimore find themselves stuck with no options.

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) tried to get the General Assembly to approve needed reforms, but the Democrat-controlled, union-friendly legislature not only gutted his plan but also passed a bill that would impose onerous new regulations on charters. The bill is awaiting action by the governor; he should veto it.

Baltimore’s tumult underscores the need to go back to the drawing board and come up with a plan that welcomes high-quality charter organizations that have helped bring school improvement to cities such as Washington and New Orleans.

Indeed, strong charter school laws are essential in allowing schools like Paul Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. to thrive. In fact, out of the 43 charter school laws that exist today, Washington, D.C.’s is (and has remained for nearly 7 years!) the top-rated charter school law in the nation, allowing D.C. to transform and become a place with schools parents want to send their children.

National Charter Schools week shines a spotlight on the power of education to bring change to communities that need it most. It’s up to us to take action and continue to spread that message and awareness beyond just this week.

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