by Mendell Grinter, State Director, Kentucky Black Alliance for Educational Options
On August 11 the Kentucky Black Alliance for Educational Options (KY BAEO) joined a coalition of Louisville area pastors on the steps of City Hall in Louisville, KY to make a demand – for all parents and families of our city and our state be given an added high-quality public education option in the form of charter schools.
Kentucky BAEO advocates for greater access to high-quality education options for low-income and working-class Black families and children. Our goal is to ensure all children are given the chance to learn at the same level as a child born into a family with the means to move to an area with excellent schools or to send their child to a private school. Simply put, we believe a great education a civil right.
Our state has not done a good job educating lower income, Black children. In 2013, 57 percent of low-income Black students in the 4th grade scored below basic on the reading portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Black high school graduates are not prepared for college. Only 10 percent of Black high school graduates met math college readiness benchmarks on the ACT test and only 13 percent of them met the readiness benchmark in reading.
The numbers are just as dismal in Jefferson County, Kentucky. In 2013, 4th grade math students who were eligible for free/reduced-price school lunch (an indicator of low family income) had an average score that was 27 points lower than students who were not eligible for the free lunch program. The scores for reading were even worse with those children receiving free or reduced lunch scoring on average 34 points lower than those not eligible for the program. Of course, our education system is not one made up of complete failure.
Traditional public schools in Louisville and across the Commonwealth of Kentucky send thousands of children to college every year. Many of our fellow citizens have attended public schools in our state and have done very well. But having some success is not enough – particularly when our results are so grim with certain populations of students. We must ensure that every child is given the chance to thrive and that they are given the academic preparation they need for success in life.
This is the reason why we stood on the steps of City Hall only days ago asking our state leaders to create a path to bring charter schools to our state. Charter schools are public schools that are open to children from all communities. They are autonomous in their organization and administration, but accountable to the same achievement standards as our traditional public schools. They are innovation hubs and hallmarks of the value of giving parents an option in how and where their child is educated. Charter schools have proven that, when run well, they can provide a higher quality of education to children who have previously been ill served in our traditional system.
This is why we are calling for charters in Kentucky. We need schools that give our best educators the autonomy to try new things and to do what will work best for their population of students so that we might finally begin to deliver on the promise of a great public education for every child in our state. The statistics make it clear. We cannot wait.
The time is now for charter schools.
Adapted image attribution flickr user tulanepublicrelations; An Educator Argues For Charter Schools In Kentucky