Opinion

Support traditional public schools for the greatest good

We applaud the Durham City Council vote to not extend a bond approval for the expansion of Excelsior Academy. 

In our document “Education Principles our Children Deserve” (https://www.durhampa.org/education) People’s Alliance members collectively decided to support a public school system that is governed by a democratically elected board of education. 

We also stated that we do not support any increase in charter schools in Durham at this time. Charter programs are publicly funded but privately managed and, in fact, not accessible to all of our county’s students. 

While the idea of the charter movement was to pilot ideas to eventually bring them back into the public system to implement with all our public school children, this is not what has happened. And while no individual should be denied the ability to choose a school for their child, we also all have to recognize that the support of expanding charter programs siphons money and invested parents out of our school system — without these things the students in our Durham Public Schools suffer. 

Our community needs a discourse that allows us all to admit together this problematic reality, without the narrative that this is “anti-choice” or that the individuals making the choice of charter schools are in themselves, problematic. 

The City Council members who voted not to approve Excelsior’s bid for revenue bonds are acknowledging that our state’s charter policies have created a flawed system. The learning environment at Excelsior is not under attack. We feel proud to have a city council that can look beyond the personal and address systemic and institutionalized issues. This is our only path to real change for every student in Durham. 

The People’s Alliance Education Team values state that we support education and education funding that is accessible to all of our county’s students, and the only system that does this is our traditional public schools. 

Councilperson Jillian Johnson stated her belief “that charters are now becoming a mechanism by which public education in our state and our community is being threatened and being harmed.” We concur with this assessment. 

We will continue to advocate for a unified system. As Nicole Hannah-Jones states: You fight for all kids when our fates are intertwined. This is central to the issue at hand. A financial and resource focus on traditional public schools is a recognition of the reality that the traditional system serves most of Durham’s children and that continuing to promote expansion in the charter program impacts the larger community of Durham’s students. 

We commend the city council for recognizing this issue and supporting our fight for great schools accessible to all. 

Molly Parks and Christopher Briggs are co-chairs of The People’s Alliance Education Team.

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