By Charla Austin Harris
As an educator and parent, I stood with my kids’ teachers during the UTLA strike. I did not cross the picket line and brought teachers coffee and donuts in the rain.
But I’ve been listening to a lot of rhetoric over the past two weeks, leading up to Tuesday’s vote on a charter moratorium. And after experiencing these raging education wars from nearly every angle, I’ve come to believe there’s really only one side to be on: the side of the kids.
Kids, no matter what type of school they attend, deserve a quality education. Charter schools help provide that, and they’re not the cause of LAUSD’s failures. That notion is utterly ridiculous.
Here’s where I come from:
• I attended both Berkeley and Oakland Unified School Districts growing up.
• I attended and graduated from a Catholic all-girls high school.
• I taught in both LAUSD and Compton Unified School Districts.
• My kids currently attend an LAUSD magnet school and affiliated charter.
• I was a homeschooling mom when the option I wanted for my kids wasn’t available, and I always reserve the right to homeschool again, if needed.
• I founded an independent charter school in South Los Angeles and am in my first year of operation.
As someone who has pretty much lived all sides, I firmly believe every family has a right to choose what’s best for their child. I support quality education in any form.
But tell me this: Are the anti-charter folks saying that if charters didn’t exist, this would “Make District Schools Great Again”? I’m really not understanding the venom and hatred being thrown at charter schools right now. I’m a fairly smart woman, I think, but I’m missing the logic.
And please spare me that rich billionaire privatization rhetoric as an excuse for your anger, because I’m broke. No really, I’m personally broke. My salary stinks. I clearly missed the memo telling me where to go to collect my millions for my charter school. And I’m clearly not a rich, white corporate man, in case you haven’t noticed.
Black woman charter operator over here.
So again, you hate me and my school because why? Help me out here. Many of the students at my school came to us because LAUSD failed them. That doesn’t mean all LAUSD schools are bad. My point, there are good and bad school experiences in every sector of education. No one is all bad. So just stop it with the nonsense, please.
The “us-against-them,” anger-fueled position based on inaccurate rhetoric really just comes off as a group of sheep who have been spoon-fed some baloney and are being manipulated to push an agenda. Kind of like a mob mentality -- following what the mob is doing just to feel like you’re a part of something.
This fight against charters makes no logical sense. It just doesn’t. There is a fight and lots of work to be done.
So to all the anti-charter folks that claim to be fighting with UTLA for quality education, I challenge you to put your money and time and efforts where your mouth is.
Drive on over to South L.A., Watts and Compton, and help repair a boarded-up, broken window. Pay for some books and technology for kids. Tutor, volunteer or, dammit, sponsor an after-school program. Take the South L.A. kids on a field trip. Leave your cushy home at 6:30 a.m. and drive over there and help serve breakfast to kids who come to school early to get their first meal for the day.
If you’re so concerned and want to fight for educational rights and equality, then get out from behind your computer and off of Facebook, where you are safe to spout all this nonsense about how charter schools are the reason for LAUSD failure.
Go stand on the front line every damn day and do something about it since you are so down for quality education for everyone. Because I feel very confident in saying that I’m sure a charter school has never impacted the quality education your kids receive.
So please just stop with the “I’m for all people and want equality for everyone” B.S. Take yourself down here and walk the streets, and visit the schools you think you’re fighting for, as well as the ones you’re fighting against. Get first-hand knowledge and experience. In fact, come visit me at my school. Anytime! We have an open-door policy and invite anyone to come see the work we’re doing.
— Charla Austin Harris is an LAUSD mom and founder of the Learning By Design charter school in South L.A.