Charter School Parent Supports “Go Public” Campaign

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Bexar County Superintendents and Go Public campaign tri-chairs officially launch the public school success awarness campaign at Jefferson High School. Photo by Bekah McNeel.

Bexar County Superintendents and Go Public campaign tri-chairs officially launch the public school success awarness campaign at Jefferson High School. Photo by Bekah McNeel.

Blakely FernandezI have been a vocal, dedicated public school advocate for as long as I can remember.  The pledge to “Go Public” with my support for public education is an easy one.  It’s easy even though I am a charter school parent.

Our choice to enroll our daughter in a charter school was personal, difficult and, frankly, grew out of our frustration with the limitations of our neighborhood options.  Even the magnet programs in our district have not met my expectation of rigor.  I don’t mean rigor in the four-hours-of homework sense (though I am a fan of homework), rather that A’s should require real effort and reflect success – not just presence – and that every student be challenged academically.

It is my hope that my children will learn to work hard for their success in education as a precursor of things to come.

At the same time, I recognize the reality that rigor is different for every child (and, actually, every parent). Our public schools have to balance the spectrum of needs and abilities.

Bexar County Superintendents and Go Public campaign tri-chairs officially launch the public school success awarness campaign at Jefferson High School. Photo by Bekah McNeel.

Bexar County Superintendents and Go Public campaign tri-chairs officially launch the public school success awarness campaign at Jefferson High School. Photo by Bekah McNeel.

As Inga Munsinger Cotton points out in her piece, traditional public schools have big jobs, broad responsibilities and are not always the right fit for every child. It is precisely because I share this view point that we removed our child from a traditional public school.

Honestly, if I believed that our schools were failing all  of the children, I would have stayed. In fact, I did stay in that very scenario when my oldest child attended a magnet program located at a very neglected middle school. In that situation, where the entire school was failing, our obligation to all students was to dig in, roll up our sleeves, and help turn the ship.

With the exception of the rigor that I desire, that school is, today, a great option for middle school, with thriving extra-curricular programs, tremendous leadership and the bustle of kids who are safe and happy to be there.

I don’t think anybody denies that as good as many of our neighborhood schools are, there is still room for improvement and growth if we intend to prepare our students to be competitive with their national and global peers.

The Go Public awareness and marketing campaign for Bexar County’ independent school districts recognizes that we must always strive to do better for students – but, in that pursuit, we can and should celebrate what is working well. Sharing this good news and building community pride in our schools will help us grow a culture whereby success breeds success.  And success for our public school students is success for all of us.

Whether our children attend traditional public schools, public charters, private schools, or home schools, the commitment to support our public school districts and to promote excellence, rigor and accountability benefiting the the vast majority of our Bexar County students who do attend traditional public schools must be priority. Going public with our support of public education is a statement about how we, as a community, see our future, what our workforce will look like, and what our economic opportunities will be.

I hope all of us will sign on to support our public schools.


Blakely Fernandez is an attorney, mother of a freshman at the International School of the Americas, a public magnet school, and a sixth grader at Basis charter school (also public school, for the record), and former Trustee for the Alamo Community College District.


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The Secret is Out: ‘Go Public!’ Campaign to Promote Public School Success

Wave of New Charter Schools Enhance Inner City Living for Families

Inner City School Success: San Antonio’s Best-Kept Secret

‘Diplomas Now’ Champions Burbank Students Through Graduation

Rey Saldaña’s Journey Home: South San to Stanford and Back

Local School’s Anti-Dropout Program Makes it to the Small Screen

‘Inspire Awards’ Celebrate SAISD Success

Burbank’s Best and Brightest Learn to Think Globally


5 thoughts on “Charter School Parent Supports “Go Public” Campaign

  1. Thanks, Blakely, for a good viewpoint.

    You make several good points:
    1. A person’s neighborhood school may or not be the right option for your individual child.
    2. Deciding that a different choice is a better fit for your child doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive with your belief and support for traditional public schools overall.

    I recognize that many of our public schools face significant challenges: a lot of kids show up on day 1 of kindergarten already behind where they should be- and the reasons are numerous- poverty, lack of high quality pre-k, working busy parents, poor diet, too much tv, and the list goes on and on.

    It is very difficult for our schools to address all of these issues.

    Thinking about public policy, it’s easy to decide that simply adding a higher percentage of kids that are better prepared would improve the schools. And indeed, it would likely raise the average performance of some schools, even if the existing at-risk kids continued to struggle. (I haven’t seen any data on the subject, but my hunch is that at-risk students also under-perform at AHISD, NISD, and NEISD, but there are just fewer of them, so the overall performance of the schools are better.)

    Ultimately, half a century after “Why Johnny Can’t Read”, it doesn’t seem to me like we’ve made much meaningful progress educating low income and at risk kids. Two decades of “accountability” provides more data on where and how kids are failing, but it doesn’t seem like much has actually changed

    There are a few groups (I think KIPP is one) that seem like they have figured out how to teach at-risk and low income kids. With kids selected from a lottery, and way behind grade-level when they start, they’ve shown that they can make significant progress.

    I strongly support public schools, and I think improving our public schools is key to the long term health and success of our nation. But that improvement should be done by starting with the population they have, and learning from the successes of others, not by a PR effort to guilt parents into sending better-prepared kids to struggling schools in a hopes of a quick boost in average test scores. Ultimately, I don’t see as really providing much benefit to either group of kids.

    As a parent, I think my responsibility is to find the place that is the best fit for my child. Health Careers and School of the Americas are successful public magnets, that offer very different approaches. Great Hearts and Basis are public charter schools that also have very successful records, and also offer very different approaches. There are some great private schools, religious schools, and neighborhood public schools as well. Different kids might be better fits at any of these, and I think you can feel good about making the best decision for your child AND supporting public schools.

    • Well said, Patrick. I couldn’t agree more. The fact that there is such an abundance of choices (and more on the way) speaks to the fact that there are different fits for different kids. I feel that there is no need for folks to argue about why one school’s model is better than the other. Find what works for your child and foster a supportive home learning environment.

  2. Blakely, you’re right, charter schools are public schools, too!

    You are a great mom, and you found the right schools for your kids, and didn’t get hung up on labels (charter school, magnet school, etc.).

    I’m glad that your daughter is being challenged at BASIS. I am proud that I helped play a small role in bringing BASIS to San Antonio. I hope that BASIS can open more campuses in San Antonio soon so that the kids on the waiting list can enjoy the same education that your daughter is getting.

  3. Thank you so much for this post. I couldn’t agree more. My kids are at BASIS and doing so much better than in their traditional public school. Not all schools are a fit for all kids and parents should have options without being treated to a barrage of guilt. Previous comments are spot on: keeping better prepared kids in failing schools may improve averages but it doesn’t actually help the less prepared kids. In fact, I would argue that sending them elsewhere – to a school that is focused on their needs – allows the public school to focus their efforts on the less-prepared kids. Win-win. The issue though, is that public schools do not want to lose the monies that are provided for the better prepared kids. After all, they get to pretty much ignore them while siphoning off their education money to provide programs for kids with greater challenges. While their intentions are positive – to help struggling students – their result is the lost potential of better prepared kids. Administrators and teachers who truly care about ALL kids would be happy to see schools made available that can serve the needs across the whole educational spectrum.

  4. Queridos Burgesses,

    I am willing to bet that all the commenters above are white, and that some if not all might be transplants. That’s a mouthful to start out with. The privilege, and exceptionalism that they reflect is very oblivious and harmful for a place that’s 60% Latino.

    I know, I know, there kids are probably Gifted and Talented, so would be bored in school, right? They are entitled to be stimulated at all times at the public’s expense. No crees?

    There is no mention of broader social justice issues at all. I encourage these parents to read Academic Literature on charters, not marketing, not Education Entrepreneur websites, FACTS, peer reviewed by academics. They will receive the real story not the relativity of What’s best for me and mine. For the communities’ sake read the literature. SA is usually behind about 10 years so the rampant charter failures happening in NOLA, Chicago and Pennsylvania should be discussed now. Creating a low level analysis atmosphere is not going to help and so I am going to be point out a few things that adds to the conversation. You can call me a peleonera, I’ll own it.

    These are only some issues that should be addressed:

    Public dollars paying for appointed school boards who turn a profit off the school and do not have the same transparency standard as publicly elected school boards is a form of taxation without representation
    The wealthier using these charters as their own publicly funded private schools
    The abandonment and defunding of the public school system
    The School Choice framework of privatization placing students and parents in the role of consumers instead members of civil, democratic society
    Systemic racism involved in the long history of SA’s schools system
    Inflated test results due to charters like Great Hearts, and BASIS skimming the best students and leaving the others behind to the true public system
    Compounding segregation and inequality
    The paternalistic and authoritarian way children of color are treated in KIPP
    Union busting, demonizing teachers, and burning thru Teach For America grads who aren’t adequately trained and paid poorly
    Using Hedge Fund money to create demand for charters where there is none, by both influencing local politicians and co-opting the term civil rights issue to make it palatable to communities of color and white liberals
    Charters are very disingenuous about financing, they say they do more with less, and what they actually don’t say is that they have less English Language Learners, kids with disabilities and kids in poverty so they don’t receive that money from the state. They do however, gain money from parents, and foundations
    They are managed by profit management companies that produce money embezzling scandals at an alarming rate
    They provide elitist excuses for not accepting all children with the excuse that they are not a good fit, meanwhile attrition rates only serve to falsely inflate outcomes so they can continue to attract the same elitists in the name of rigor

    The right wing alliances that charter proponents have with ALEC, Heritage Foundation, Philanthropy Roundtable and others are fine if you are ok with perpetuating these huge social justice issues, we all know how they feel about immigrants, the poor, and communities of color, if not then please take corrective action, align your value system, but don’t waste time accusing a positively phrased campaign slogan of guilting you.

    Entonces, maybe the guilt you feel is your own unexamined participation in systemic racism and inequality. These shallow and self centered analysis the commenters offer are very convenient for some but not for the majority of people in San Antonio.

    Poor children of color do not need pity, they need informed allies and white solidarity.

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