KIPP NJ Students Teach Us How To “Be The Change”

Last Wednesday KIPP New Jersey hosted the 10th annual “Be the Change” celebration, its primary fundraising initiative. By the end of the evening KIPP NJ, which manages the much sought-after public charter school group with facilities in Newark and Camden, had raised over $1.8 million, all of which will be directly funneled into classrooms. Luminaries included Shavar Jeffries, president of Democrats for Education Reform;  Richard Barth, CEO of the KIPP Foundation,; Ays Necioglu, Vice President of SEO Scholars; and Dr. Daniel Porterfield; President of Franklin & Marshall College,

In addition, “Be the Change” inaugurated its first panel discussion, which this year focused on the “degree gap” — the disparity between the percentages of students of color and white students who earn college degrees. Panelists considered initiatives to improve college access and inculcate persistence and “grit” in order to allay impediments to degree completion.

Here’s Ryan Hill, KIPP New Jersey founder and CEO:

This event, and our overall mission here at KIPP New Jersey, is all about making a difference. Since day one when we opened the doors to our first school here in Newark’s South Ward, it’s been our kids who have been our source of inspiration. Once each year, we come together to celebrate their accomplishments as well as recognize the efforts of our schools’ amazing supporters. It’s incredible to see the diverse range of individuals, families and organizations that stand behind our kids, each of which play an important role in their future. We’re incredibly grateful for their support as each day, we get one step closer our nation knowing Newark and Camden, New Jersey, as cities of world-class public education.

KIPP currently serves 3,700 students in Newark and 850 in Camden. Last year the NJ DOE approved KIPP’s proposal to expand in Newark. Once all of the approved expansions in Newark are completed (Uncommon Schools is expanding as well) , an additional 8.500 seats will be available to families seeking alternative public schools — not nearly enough to satisfy demand but a step forward.

Predictably, Education Law Center, which once represented poor urban children of color but now appears to serve as the legal arm of NJEA,  has filed a complaint with the DOE. Newark Mayor Ras Baraka called the expansion approvals a “huge step backwards.” NJEA has demanded a moratorium on all charter approvals and expansions. These special interest groups don’t want to be the change. They want to stop the change.

However, Haneef Auguste, a KIPP parent, spoke truth to power in NJ Spotlight last month:

I intentionally chose the KIPP New Jersey schools for my family (one boy and three girls), because we were desperate to find an alternative to Newark Public Schools that my family could afford. I’m not sure if these parents that oppose choice understand firsthand, as I do, what it feels like to know you would give your life to ensure your child has a bright future and a shot at the rapidly shrinking window into the American dream…

I, for one, will not flush my child’s future down the drain because of people philosophically opposed to my choice. What for them is philosophical, from their leafy perch in the ‘burbs, for me and my children is a decision of heart-wrenching consequence: to have a future or not.  

Mr. Auguste is a role model for progressive, child-centered choice. He is “the change.” Now more of Newark’s schoolchildren will be the beneficiaries of that bold vision.

What do you think?

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