Despite overwhelming popularity among New Mexican families and students, New Mexico’s public charter schools have been under attack for much of the past decade. This fall, 27,000 students are attending public charter schools across the state, and thousands more have applied to schools that don’t have room, creating waiting lists.
Increasing charter school enrollment only underscores what we already know: the vast majority of taxpayers support more school choice, not less. In fact, a survey conducted by Research and Polling last January found that 70% of parents in Bernalillo County support the state in developing more charter schools.
Yet our students, families and educators have often been treated like second-class citizens. There is a small group of people that wants public charter schools to receive less funding despite the Yazzie/Martinez ruling. There is another small group that wants to prevent high-performing schools from growing and to stop high-potential schools from opening. The past five years have been marked with increased charter school accountability; due to closure, there are fewer schools now than there were in 2015. But that accountability wasn’t met with an increased ability for schools to expand. Through their quality, public charter schools in New Mexico have earned their right to serve our students, and they should be defended against harmful attacks.
Thankfully, our new Public Education Department Secretary-designate Ryan Stewart arrives with experience inside robust charter school communities on both coasts. He already visited a charter school founded by one of his deputies. He’s a fellow Teach For America alum, a fellow innovator, and a school choice parent. Leading Democrats have praised his outsider experience and the “fresh eyes” that he brings. We need “fresh eyes” on the powerful work happening across our 97 charter schools, and fresh perspective in honoring the rights of our families who are looking to enroll in our schools.
(Stewart) arrives at a time of great uncertainty. The attacks continue to mount against charter schools. From restricting student enrollment statewide to taking away facility funding for bathrooms, the attacks on public charter schools are relentless and have reached new creative heights. The attacks don’t respect the fact that charter schools are public schools and that families and students increasingly want to attend them.
Stewart can bring about a new day – but it starts with taking these three actions: