Opinion: Why I’m Going to Trenton to Stand With Parents for Charter Schools

This spring, my oldest daughter will graduate from the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). Next fall, she will enter Columbia University on the path to becoming a doctor of physical therapy who will spend her career helping people heal.

Bernado.pngIt’s a future that I, having been born and raised in Newark, could only have dreamed of for my daughter. But it’s now a reality thanks to a charter school. Having seen firsthand what charter schools are capable of doing for students in Newark, I simply can’t imagine why lawmakers in Trenton would even consider limiting access to charter schools for other students like my daughter.

Our story is like many others in Newark and other urban school districts around the country. My daughter had a good experience in the traditional public school system. The teachers were wonderful, but the school just wasn’t meeting her needs. Where our story differs is that my daughter was drawn in the lottery to enroll in Robert Treat Academy (RTA) Charter School.

At RTA, there was no limit or barrier to her curiosity and academic growth. More importantly, there was no limit on what she could accomplish. That’s because Robert Treat Academy doesn’t just teach subjects; it teaches students to set lofty goals and equips them with the tools to achieve them. That’s something I saw as a parent and still see as an administrative assistant at RTA today. I took a job there because I wanted to be part of its life-changing work.

Thanks to the dedication of the faculty and staff at Robert Treat Academy, which included a lot of early mornings and late nights, my daughter quickly caught up with her peers in math and writing skills. She secured a scholarship to go to high school at Newark Academy, will soon graduate from NJIT and is preparing for a future where the sky is the limit. None of what her bright future holds would have been possible on a different educational road.

Not every family has the same opportunity, and now that both my daughters are on firm educational footing — my younger daughter is on a similar educational path after also graduating from TRTA — I can’t help but think of all the other families who are facing similar challenges to the ones we faced, but without the same access.

I know there’s a lot of rhetoric around charter schools in Newark and other cities in New Jersey and around the country, but I won’t pretend to know all the arguments. What I do know is that charter schools are an awesome opportunity for families like mine, and that limiting the growth of charter schools as some in Trenton have suggested, would do a terrible disservice to families who need and deserve more options for their children’s education.

Instead of limiting access to public charter schools in Newark and across the state, our lawmakers should be doing more to expand access. I believe this so much that I’m joining dozens of other parents in Trenton on Monday, Dec. 14, encouraging lawmakers to listen to the voices of parents like me whose children’s lives have been changed by charter schools and parents who are hungry for the same opportunities my daughters have been given.

Lucy Bernardo was born and raised in Newark, where her daughters attended Robert Treat Academy Charter School.

Showing 7 reactions

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  • commented 2016-01-09 18:22:05 -0500
    You work for the school! Of course you’re going to support it!
    http://www.roberttreatacademy.org/faculty/staff
  • commented 2015-12-14 08:01:41 -0500
    I’d love to free college options too but we don’t have the capital to cover that dream. Just like we dont have the capital to cover mass expansion of new schools. We must make a choice then, replace traditional schools with unelected, private school boards and privately run schools or keep traditional schools, the charters we have now and try to improve both. There isnt enough capital to continue this privatization growth without replacing traditional schools.
  • commented 2015-12-14 07:31:19 -0500
    Anecdotes are nice, and there is no doubt that there are quite a number of success stories of individuals who have attended charters. But the policy questions we must consider go far beyond a handful of individuals’ experiences because we must educate all children and that is the big moral issue. Indeed, even Ms. Bernardo stated: “I won’t pretend to know all the arguments”, and it is mere speculation to state that “None of what her bright future holds would have been possible on a different educational road.” Be assured that there are many roads to success that do not involve charter schools, so we should dispense with that fallacy.

    In promoting the establishment of more charters in a scheme that has demonstrably stratified communities by dividing those families lucky enough to make the charter grade from those who are rejected in public schools deprived of funding diverted to charters, one can easily see the moral argument for a moratorium to study the question about which Ms. Bernardo doesn’t know all the arguments. This division or charter-induced segregation starkly illustrates the irony of the claim by Altorice Frazier that parents “have not been bought off.” Some introspection may be in order.

    Yet still, it seems telling that these testimonials seem to come mostly from charter employees.
  • commented 2015-12-14 07:11:25 -0500
    Robert Treat does not educate students that reflect Newark as a whole. Last year, RTA had 3% special needs vs. 18% for Newark District; 1% English Language Learners vs. 11% for Newark District; 56% Free lunch vs. 76% for Newark district.

    Why are public dollars being used this way? Why doesn’t RTI seek to educate all Newark’s students? Why won’t they participate in One Newark?
  • commented 2015-12-14 07:05:47 -0500
    It’s fascinating that employees of these companies keep writing op-eds without identifying their affiliation. And, they keep saying the moratorium is to end charter schools/expansion which is NOT TRUE.

    The point of the bill is to study the effects of charters on public and charter school students and their districts. Why would anyone not want to know what the impact of PUBLIC dollars are? It is everyone’s right to know HOW that money is being spent and the efficacy of it. It really is that simple.

    These charter companies do themselves no favors by passing off employees and consultants as “just moms” without fully identifying who they are. Shame on them for purposely misleading the public.
  • commented 2015-12-14 07:00:41 -0500
    Mark: She WORKS AT THE SCHOOL. http://www.roberttreatacademy.org/faculty/staff
  • commented 2015-12-14 01:14:07 -0500
    The proof is in the pudding. PARENTS have not been bought off, we just respect what our children are receiving. A Quality education and a future in life. Not in prison. Where many uneducated and poverty stricken individuals end up.

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