By Toya Algarin, Renee Brown, Nadiyah Bryant, and Keisha Dandy
As parents, nothing is more important to us than great schools for our kids. We want schools that are safe; schools that value our children as individuals; schools with caring teachers who believe that every one of their students can and will be successful.
That shouldn't be too much to ask.
Yet year after year, tens of thousands of Philadelphia families are forced to send their kids to schools that are, by any measure, failing students. And year after year, families in our communities are told to just wait for the next "fix" that will - no kidding, this time for real - make these schools great. Wait until we have funding. Wait until we fix this law or that law. Wait until we have a new plan.
We are tired of waiting.
We demand better educational opportunities in Philadelphia - now.
And that's why we lent our voices to a campaign called "No More Waiting" (nomorewaiting.org).
From City Hall to Harrisburg, our voices will be heard loud and clear: Parents want more good schools, and we don't care whether they are charter or traditional public schools.
The evidence shows that right now, good charter schools are the best answer. Why? Charter schools are working for kids in Philadelphia. Just ask the families of the 65,000 students who have chosen to enroll in charters, or the 22,000 more students who are on waiting lists.
And these families love their schools: 90 percent of charter parents report that they are satisfied.
Charters are also working particularly well for our city's neediest students. According to a recent study by experts from Stanford University, African American students in poverty who attended charters are more likely to get ahead in reading and math. In other words, better results today - no waiting.
These are the facts. Charters represent the best opportunity for tens of thousands of African American and Hispanic kids to get a great education right now. Yet most rhetoric about charter schools in the city ignores these facts.
Instead, critics profess concern about our families while telling us that charters - the best way to get results today - are a luxury we just can't afford. What they're really saying hasn't changed much for decades. To tens of thousands of families all over Philadelphia, the critics of charters are saying: Hold up. Wait until we develop another plan to fix public schools.
Two months ago, the School Reform Commission had an opportunity to provide immediate help for thousands of children and families in underperforming schools. The SRC reviewed 40 applications for new charters, many of which were submitted by operators who are already running some of the best schools in the city. Yet the SRC rejected the vast majority of them - telling tens of thousands of families to keep playing the waiting game.
We cannot wait any longer. Our children need better schools right now.
We agree that public schools need more funding, and that they deserve a plan that resolves the funding crisis that batters our schools year after year. But we refuse to accept the status quo while politicians haggle over how much funding is enough and who gets to spend it. Those are priorities for adults.
Our priorities are our children and their future. Kids in schools that continue to struggle don't have any more time to waste. Each year they fall further and further behind.
While politicians fight over a funding solution, let's spend on schools that are working, schools that are getting results for our children.