School Choice, Here’s Why.

Those against school choice oppose charter schools.

Teach the Babies:

My thoughts on public education are simple, cut out the bureaucratic red tape and “teach the babies,” as my friend and Parent Advocate Gwen Samuels would say. Parents entrust in all educators, albeit public, private, parochial, charter, with their most valued assets, their scholars.  School choice is a parent’s right.

Truthfully, I find honor when a parent makes a choice to send their scholar to our school, under our care. I also take it personally when we aren’t doing right by our students/parents. I will fight tooth and nail to ensure that we correct our wrongs- reflect- and put forth a more concerted effort when we face similar challenges. Our failures aren’t failures, they are opportunities to grow.

The best two years of my professional career (thus far) were when I was able to be both principal and parent for my 12-year-old scholar. I take great pride in being his father.


Positive Imagery in Schools:

Moreover, I took almost the same amount of pride in being an educator that mirrored my son’s image, because all too often Black kids aren’t able to see those positive images enough to make a difference in their lives. It gave me the oy to know that if his professional athletic career fails, he plans to go into education as his fall back plan.

Reluctantly, I recently had a conversation with a friend that is adamantly against charter schools. I always hear my friends out before I respond. My goal is never to listen to respond but to actually listen to a person’s concerns. Sometimes it takes me a while to get back to people because I really care about how I respond, and I don’t want it to seem like my responses are transcribed.


Anti-Charter friends:

My friend, as well as many other friends of mine, dislike charter schools. They feel large charter networks, also known as Charter Management Organizations (CMO’s) prey on the disenfranchised, and disguise themselves in the name of “school choice.”

Those against school choice oppose charter schools.

Another area of contention regarding charter schools are the harsh disciplinary policies, and the ability to part ways with unruly scholars. Their argument is if public schools were able to expel students that weren’t a good fit for their program, charter schools would be obsolete. I explained with great enthusiasm that most charter schools have moved away from harsh disciplinary measures, and have moved to a restorative justice model. Every time there’s an incident of mistreatment of a scholar in any charter school nationwide, I get an email or a text message with the link and the word “see”…


For the Love of School Choice:

Rather than respond to my friends using my “pro-charter school notes,” I respond to them with my heart. My first question to my friend that is an NYC Public school teacher is always, would you let your children attend the school or attend a school in the school system (besides the specialized NYC high schools) in which you teach? There’s always this awkward silence.

So you, as a teacher in the system are okay with parents sending their scholars to you, yet you would not make the same choice to send your scholars to a school within your network? I love it when my friends repeat my questions aloud. I hope that when they hear how detached they’ve become, they would self correct their anti-charter stance. Their response is usually, well your charter school is different, you actually care. I accepted the compliment, but other charter leaders care the same way that I care.


Why we Teach:

Education is one of the most thankless jobs, and I have no desire to take shots at other types of schools if they are doing right by scholars. I dream of an education system where there is no charter vs. public school rhetoric. How awesome would it be for scholars if adults on both sides of the choice argument could put their differences aside, and put the scholars at the forefront? How awesome would it be if there was more collaboration between districts and charter schools that are within that district? Seems like a win-win for parents, scholars, and educators.


Fair Criticism:

Is the criticism on CMO’s Fair? I don’t think it is. Having worked in a couple of CMO’s I’m thankful that each of the networks that I worked in had no problem putting students first. Are some CMO’s better than others? Of course, but with governmental oversight, random state auditing, many things are put in place to ensure that money is spent on educating scholars. Will this response to my friends’ criticism of school choice change their minds, probably not. However, this will give you proper insight on why it’s essential to not infringe on other folks school choice, even if you don’t support it.

Consequently, some folks have gotten to the point in their lives to where they are financially stable enough to dictate the zip code where they live. For those that have reached that pinnacle, you’ve exercised choice and had the purchasing power to ensure their voices were heard. Please don’t take away the views of those that can’t buy houses in your neighborhood. Many of these folks leverage school choice and their ability to select from schools that fit their needs. They may not have earned enough money to be your neighbor, but they’ve definitely made the right to choose where their scholars attend school.


A choice for Some:

Lastly, you’ll have some people that will say, “they (parents that choose choice) aren’t smart enough to make those choices for themselves”. Please know that this response is offensive to all parents, and you are in no place to make this choice for parents. I ask that you stop doing this and disguising it in the name of care… because the fact that you feel it’s okay to reprimand parents for the choices they make is a riddled absurdity, to say the least.

My choice on where I send my scholar to school is exactly that, my choice. It’s okay to debate on which option is better, healthy debate and competition make for more competitive schools. But don’t you dare tell me where to send my child to school, because that is my choice!

Author: Raymond J. Ankrum, Sr.

Mr. Ankrum is the current Superintendent of the Riverhead Charter School. Mr. Ankrum has gained notoriety as a school turnaround expert. He is enthusiastic about helping students from low (SES) find ways to end generational poverty through educational advocacy. If you believe PoC can end generational poverty by exercising educational opportunities, you have an ally in @Mr_Ankrum.