There is nothing more critical to my district of Northern Manhattan and our nation than the education of our youth. With a solid education and core values, every young person in my community has an opportunity to achieve the American dream of prosperity, freedom and liberty.
The traditional urban public-education system has failed us. There is no equality in American education today. It is common knowledge that children of wealthy families are sent to high-achieving private schools while the poor and middle class have little choice in education but to accept the hand they are dealt in the public-school system. Millions of tax dollars are being wasted on standardized test requirements, placating teachers unions, reinforcing a system that is inherently flawed and causing many children in my district to flounder in substandard public schools.
I often question how the New York City public school can set up a “one-size-fits-all” approach when our school population is composed of roughly one million children from very diverse ethnic, income and social backgrounds. Education and learning is an intensely personal process. It is different for each individual child, which is why parents should be the most critical decision-makers in a child’s education.
Charter schools let us tailor education to the individual needs of our children. Charter schools may be the most effective form of public-private partnership in America today. Not only do they provide better schools for our children, but maybe even more importantly, they provide a way for parents to have a say in the education of their children. You won’t see that kind of parental involvement in the traditional zoned public school.
Charter schools are public schools, held accountable with public dollars, free of charge, and open to all. But step inside a successful charter school, and the similarities to their traditional zoned-school counterparts end there.
Exempted from many of the rules and cumbersome regulations that govern traditional schools, charter schools do not follow the system’s “core curriculum” and are free to follow any educational path that will lead to good results. Charter schools are able to freely hire the most qualified teachers who have the heart, skills and motivation to teach in a manner that can inspire underprivileged children to reach their full potential.
I have been a vocal supporter of school choice for many years, and in particular, I believe charter schools are fundamentally better for our children, most especially in my district in Northern Manhattan where the student dropout rate in traditional public schools are extraordinarily high.
Parents here welcome charter schools, seeing them as a ticket to providing their children with the opportunity to achieve the American Dream. Harlem has one of the densest concentrations of charter schools in the country, yet demand still far exceeds supply. Student waiting lists to get admitted to these innovative schools number in the thousands. However, countless forces have stood in their way.
As a pastor of New Horizon Ministry, I faced endless challenges to starting a charter school affiliated with my church. Roadblocks such as the Blaine Amendment, that prevent religious schools from receiving public funds, are suffocating parents and communities that are working to provide better access to quality education.
My district includes a large population of Latinos and African Americans, as well as a significant Jewish constituency. All of these groups have traditionally held strong Judeo-Christian values, and for good reason, parents want their views passed on to their children. As a result, many of these parents prefer sending their children to religious schools. As a parent who sent my children to Christian schools, I fall into this category. I have been frustrated that my tax dollars go instead to paying for public education, where I am not a customer.
Taxpayers, like me and my wife, deserve to have a say in where our education dollars go. It can no longer be acceptable to allow government to waste precious funds on programs that do not work on the local level. Our children need our help now, or we will not be able to pass the baton to their generation.
In these dire economic times, attention must be paid to the plight of public schools in poor neighborhoods, especially those in urban areas like mine. Impeding education reform is an act that Americans can no longer afford to tolerate from their federal government.
When I am elected to the House of Representatives, I will carry the banner for true education reform, working tirelessly to rein in excessive government spending and give those dollars back to the mothers and fathers who are struggling to provide their children with a better life than they had. I call on every candidate for Congress on both sides of the aisle to join me in this noble cause. Let’s make America great again, and let’s start with our kids.