All Families Deserve School Choice

Nina Doster, Jamaica, Queens

For too long, I’ve seen and heard how wealthy parents in New York City can pick and choose where to send their children to school. Unfortunately, parents in neighborhoods like mine in Southeast Queens don’t have the same sort of options. While our zoned schools chronically struggle to provide our kids with a top notch education, most of us can’t afford private or parochial schools. To make matters worse, the few charter schools in the area have long waiting lists. Parents like me are concerned about the state of our schools and we’re fed up with Mayor de Blasio for telling us to just sit quietly and wait for improvements that may never come.

When Mayor de Blasio came into office, he promised to address inequality in New York City. But when it comes to our kids’ education, it seems like Mayor de Blasio doesn’t think families living in struggling districts deserve a choice in where to send our kids to school. He won’t approve any more charters, even though parents are demanding them. Instead, the Mayor likes to argue that he’s making “changes,” but he doesn’t even promise any results for 10 years. That’s not nearly fast enough for kids who are trapped in struggling schools right now. He’s against charter schools for political reasons, but his political agenda isn’t helping kids in my neighborhood learn how to read or improve their math skills.

Parents like me are concerned about the state of our schools and we’re fed up with Mayor de Blasio for telling us to just sit quietly and wait for improvements that may never come.

I recently went to a Mayor’s town hall, and I asked him why he’s standing in the way of expanding school choice. His answer, like his stand against charter schools, was unacceptable. The Mayor said he doesn’t want parents to “go away from your community” for a school — but what are we supposed to do when there are no good options where we live?

Watch Nina Doster ask Mayor de Blasio about his plans for expanding school choice.

The Mayor even claimed he believes that every child deserves a great education, no matter the zip code. Of course that’s true, but sadly the Mayor is not doing anything to improve the situation in my zip code. Right now, in my zip code, only 25 percent of kids are proficient in reading and less than 20 percent of kids are proficient in math. So why are there only two charter schools (one elementary and one high school) with 600 openings in my zip code? Why are there 850 students stuck on waiting lists to get into one of these high quality charter schools? And why are there more than 44,000 students on charter school wait lists across the entire city?

I have struggled to find the right school for my kids, and I’m lucky to have won a spot for my son in a public charter school. For me, this isn’t about politics or agendas — I value both charters and traditional district schools, where I send my daughter. I just want to find a place where my kids can learn.

We’re not seeing any results from this Mayor’s programs and we deserve options now.

That’s what’s missing when I hear the Mayor talk about school choice. For him, this is all about politics and ideology. For parents struggling to get their kids a decent education, this is life and death. This is about the future of our children. We’re not seeing any results from this Mayor’s programs and we deserve options now. Our kids can’t afford another 10 years of empty promises waiting for change that never comes.

Nina Doster is the parent of 2 children, one of whom attends a charter school and one who attends a district school. She is also a Parent Organizer for StudentsFirstNY.