(Joanna Garnett Raeppold is a Jersey City resident and mother of two. Her sons are in Kindergarten and 4th grade at Learning Community Charter School. This first appeared in NJ Spotlight.)
I am a proud charter school parent who voted for Gov. Phil Murphy. I support many of the governor’s key priorities and I’m excited for the changes he plans to make in New Jersey, including increasing funding to our public schools, fixing the inequality in our tax structure, reforming our criminal justice system, and protecting our Dreamers.
What I cannot support is his plan to take a “time out” on charter schools.
I have been a Jersey City resident for 18 years. I love it here, but my plan had always been that when my children became school age, I would move, likely outside of New Jersey, in search of great schools. Learning Community Charter School is the reason I stayed in New Jersey, the reason I moved to the west side of Jersey City and happily pay my newly reevaluated taxes.
When I found out that my child won the lottery to attend Learning Community Charter School (LCCS) in Jersey City, I was ecstatic. This school is a nonprofit, independent charter school in the middle of an urban area that serves the most diverse group of kids in the state. About 40 languages are spoken in the homes of our students. At least 35 percent of students come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The teachers are unionized and are part of the NJEA.
In addition to the diversity of the school, it also offers a comprehensive and progressive curriculum that develops the full child. My fourth-grade son participates in the incredible band program, where he learns to play everything from rock to jazz. There are also an innovative arts program and technology curriculum that allow our kids to explore their passions. LCCS is shaping my children into citizens of the world, and it does all of this with significantly less funds than district schools.
I was lucky that my children were accepted at LCCS, but many of my neighbors were not as fortunate. When I hear that Gov. Murphy wants to slow down the growth of charter schools, I think about my neighbors who are on the waiting list and how their opportunities are being limited. With a waiting list of hundreds hoping for a chance at charters, the city needs more schools like LCCS. We cannot wait 10-plus years to figure out how to make all of our district schools great. Families need options, and they need them now.
I am heading to Trenton today to talk with legislators and show them that their base supports great public schools regardless of whether they are district or charter. My message today will be clear: taking a pause on charter school growth will not benefit the children of New Jersey. There are around 50,000 charter-school students in New Jersey, with thousands more on waiting lists hoping to secure a better education. We need more schools that will provide this rigorous education for the students of this state.
My ask to Governor Murphy is to visit us at Learning Community Charter School to see all that our school has to offer. With LCC’S’s diversity, rigorous academics, and dedicated staff, the governor will see that schools like ours are the future of New Jersey education and that preventing the growth of these schools is an injustice to our citizens.