I want to share a parent’s note that reminded me why In the Public Interest focuses on public education.

Deb Zehr is the mother of nine-year-old Suraya, who recently left a San Diego charter school to attend a traditional, neighborhood school. She joined me in Sacramento last week to testify at a meeting of the California Department of Education’s Advisory Commission on Charter Schools (ACCS), which was deciding whether to recommend renewal of the Thrive charter schools. 

Thrive’s academic performance has deteriorated every year since it opened in 2014. It performs worse than most schools with similar demographics on California’s annual tests, and performs particularly poorly for low-income, Latino, and African-American students.  

Four of the six ACCS members present voted “no” on Thrive. The state’s Board of Education will make a final decision in March. Both the San Diego Unified School District and California Department of Education staff have recommended closingThrive’s schools. 

But politics and data don’t tell the whole story. Many parents have been let down by Thrive, including Deb, who says Suraya experienced “neglect and false promises.”

Here’s Deb’s note, which she gave permission to share:

It was cathartic to hear state leaders call out Thrive on the many inconsistencies in their testimony. There’s the false math regarding test scores that have been falling since their inception, and the blatant lie that Thrive’s board reached out and invited parents to testify and voice our deep grievances of physical and sexual abuse on campus and emotional abuse by my child’s teacher. It was difficult for me to not rebut these lies aloud during the hearing.

My daughter found it therapeutic to testify in front of her former principal after the school regularly dismissed her complaints and expressions of needs during what was a traumatic year in third grade at Thrive.

Deb’s and Suraya’s experiences are all the more important to raise up as California begins the hard but necessary work of rethinking the role of charter schools in public education. 

And they reveal an undeniable truth: all parents want the same thing for their students, whether they go to neighborhood or charter schools. They want a great education.

It’s time for state leaders in Sacramento to regulate charter schools so that they deliver on their promises to students, give parents a voice, and stop draining precious funding and resources from neighborhood school students.

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