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A Reflection from a Unity High Teacher

By Keisha Pierre Stephen

In Oakland, there is a prevalent narrative that charter schools are stealing money and students from district schools, they are not held accountable, and they are part of an effort to privatize public education. However, according to The Mercury News, “more and more, Bay Area families — rich and poor — are opting out of their nearby public schools in favor of charter or private schools.”

I have taught math at Oakland Unity High School for 7 years. Unity is a small charter high school in Oakland that opened in 2003. Our student body is 89% and Latino, 4.4%. Our school receives the same per-pupil funding from the state of California as all other public schools, whether traditional or charter-run. Aside from state funds, the money that our school receives are all grants for which the superintendent consistently writes to obtain funding. Every six years the school presents a self-report to be audited upon visits by WASC and the Charter Committees every 3 years. It is a public charter school that operates on a lottery for incoming freshmen giving parents choice. In all modesty, we are one of Oakland’s highest performing schools in ELA and Math in Oakland. Our 2019 scores ranks us in the 82nd percentile in ELA and in the 86th percentile in Math in the state of California.

My Oakland charter school provides college preparatory education of quality and equitable learning in our classrooms within a small, safe and supportive environment staying firm in our vision and mission. We spend our time devoted to our students, parents and staff. Charter schools are an alternative choice for parents and deserve to be given the same respect and recognition as any other school for parents to choose and to recruit alongside district schools. Division never solves issues. Whether district or charter schools, we are all in this together for one joint purpose– to educate our youth who are the future of tomorrow. Please stand with me in supporting family voice and choice in our communities, which includes equitable access to high-quality public charter schools.

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