I Am a District School Parent and a Charter School Parent, All I Want Is Quality; Underserved Families Need Options

by Hakeem Bey

Oakland public schools failed me and now, as the father of four, I’ll be damned if they are going to fail my children, too. I don’t care about the name or type of school my children attend—I do care about quality.

I never had the opportunity to attend a high quality school. I graduated from high school with a diploma and transcript that said I was ready and able to succeed in college. But soon after the start of my freshman year of college, I was forced to face the brutal truth that I was not prepared. I dropped out.

Latitude charter high school in Oakland is different. My daughter is challenged by her coursework and exposed to innovative science and technology work like coding that she needs to be prepared for a great job in Silicon Valley.  But Latitude would never have opened if the anti-charter school bill AB 1505 was law then. That bill allows local districts to deny new public charter schools on the basis of fiscal impact, with no appeal. So the children and families pay the cost for a district that mis-manages its finances.

This school began as a great idea, which the Oakland district staff recognized, and recommended it for approval. But the school board shot it down. If AB1505 had passed, that would have been the final word, and my daughter’s school would not exist.

The leaders in Oakland have the opportunity to make sure my story is not my children’s story—to ensure my daughter has access to a better education. But I often wonder if the people who have the power to help me get my children the schools they deserve have any sense of how bad my zoned schools really are. The high school where they expected me to enroll my daughter is so low-performing, I thought the proficiency rates had to be a typo.

They weren’t typos then and they aren’t typos now. Our neighborhood school, assigned to us, based on nothing but our zip code, is not acceptable to me as a father or as a citizen of Oakland. Just 2% of students read and write at grade level, and 0% do math at grade level.

Would you send your own child to that school?

How can we still even call the place a school? Yes, they have phenomenal track and field and football, but students are not learning what they need to know to have a chance at success in college. Or life.

I am a district school parent. And I am a charter parent. My only priority is quality. 

Allowing local districts to block choices for families like mine would be devastating. I’m calling on the officials who represent me—and families like mine—to stand up for our kids. If you are unable to consider the needs of my child, then who do you represent?

Please do your job on behalf of the families in your district and vote down AB 1505.

Hakeem Bey is an Oakland native and father of four children in Oakland public schools. He’s a leader with The Oakland REACH, a parent-led advocacy organization, and advocates for a quality education for all Oakland students.   

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