When I was a young woman, my mother told me I would be attending a charter school when I entered sixth grade. Like any kid, I just wanted to do what my friends were doing, but my mother had other plans for me, and I’m so grateful she did. Now, years later, as I navigate the early part of my professional career – in education, appropriately enough – I’m often reminded how different my life might have been had I not attended the Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter Public School.
It is because of that experience that I’m perplexed as to why 11 members of the Boston City Council voted last week to pass a resolution symbolically opposing Question 2, a referendum on the November ballot that, if approved, would lift the cap on the number of charter schools allowed to serve students in Massachusetts. We know the demand is there as tens of thousands of kids are on waiting lists for these schools across the state.
I vividly remember the discussions I had with my friends who attended other public schools in the city. They would boast about how they were passing a class with a C average. There clearly were different expectations. At my school, anything below a C average was considered failing. The expectations at my school resulted in every member of my graduating class going to college. As I was attending Providence College, some of my friends from my neighborhood were back home without a plan.
The results are real. My classmates and I are living proof of what is possible when families are given access and choice. After college, when I had the opportunity to work for the state Democratic Party, I was shocked to learn that some of my colleagues were opposed to charter schools. As I learned about President Obama’s (and now Hillary Clinton’s) support for great public charter schools, I was reminded that access to a quality education is at the heart of what Democrats believe in. We all have a vested interest in the education of our youth.
Today, I’ve returned to my roots and work as part of the administrative team at a Dorchester charter school that represents everything that makes our public education system an example of success for the rest of the country. Massachusetts has some of the best charter schools in America. Why wouldn’t we want to offer this to more families like mine? We can, and we should. I implore the members of the City Council who voted to oppose the referendum to think of kids like me who can benefit from more charter schools in our communities.
Public charter schools give families like mine hope and a represent a clear opportunity for a brighter future. Voting Yes on 2 will give more families hope and give more kids access to that opportunity.
Dominique Calixte was born and raised in Hyde Park and currently works at a Charter School in Dorchester.