Opinion: Public Charter Schools Should Be Treated Fairly

ByAlexis Cartey

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I am a proud Newarker, graduate of Uncommon Schools North Star Academy, and current teacher at KIPP Seek Academy. I’m writing with a clear message for our state leaders: public charter schools helped make me the person I am today, and they deserve to be supported.

In 2007, I graduated from North Star and was accepted to Oberlin College in Ohio, making me the first in my family to earn my college degree. This was a significant accomplishment for my family and me. My time at North Star prepared me well for college, and I am so grateful for that.

The teachers and staff at North Star made getting to and through college the absolute end-goal. They provided me with a network of teachers, administrators and community members that provided the support system that my classmates and I needed to push ourselves toward academic success.

North Star prepped me academically, socially and emotionally, giving me opportunities for real-life success through valuable internships. I Interned at the Washington Mutual bank, eventually earning a full-time job there during weekends and summers.

After graduating with a degree in sociology and African studies, I returned to Newark in 2011, determined to give back to the community that had raised me. I began working with homeless youth and veterans. It is so important that students are reminded that regardless of who they are and where the come from, they can achieve whatever they put their minds to. That’s the mindset North Star gave to me, and it set me on this path toward success.

In 2014, I began teaching second grade at KIPP Seek Academy. I was so excited to work towards making sure that every student has the opportunities that I had during my own experience as a public charter school student. I’m now enrolled Seton Hall’s Masters program as an education specialist in counseling.

Eight weeks ago, I joined other charter school teachers, parents, and supporters as part of the #ILoveMyCharter campaign. Together, we’ve demonstrated overwhelming support for our schools. More than 1,000 of us turned out to speak at public hearings. Hundreds more marched in the streets and filled out the state Department of Education’s online survey. And more than 2,000 signed postcards in support of our schools. Support for public charter schools during the state’s review process has been overwhelming, from every corner of the state.

The bottom line is this: charter schools are public schools and the number of children they serve should continue to grow. I’m asking state Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet and the entire Board of Education to be responsive to the families and advocates who have participated in this process, and ensure that public charter school students are treated fairly.

Alexis Cartey is a teacher at KIPP Seek Academy in Newark.