Letters: Writer defends East Bay Tech Academies as necessary for Antioch students

Dear Editor:

I am a strong supporter of all public schools. The proposed East Bay Tech Academies approved by the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) Board earlier this year are free, public, charter schools. All of us who worked on bringing this choice to Antioch also support improvement at our current AUSD schools. Even so, we need high performing schools now so that our current students have the chance for success that they deserve.

As a longtime resident, it has saddened me to see many great families with school-aged children move out of town, primarily to get their children into higher performing school districts. I agree with the comment posted by Ken Turnage (on a previous letter to the editor) that it is possible to get a great education in Antioch. My children had some outstanding teachers. However, at the same time, the great majority of children attending the AUSD perform below grade level and are not meeting State Standards in either math or English. This can’t all be a result of bad parenting. After all, where high quality charter schools are established in a community, most of the same children who were failing begin to excel.

The nationally recognized model that the East Bay Tech Academies is offering Antioch families has taken a school in a neighboring community from a poor performing school to one of the best in the state. Fifty-two percent (52%) of their students were proficient in Math in 2016 versus only 15% at Antioch High School and 32% at Deer Valley High School. Which school would you choose to send your children to if you had a choice? The opponents of these schools never argue on the performance numbers because these facts are indisputable.

In fact, almost all of the opposition to charter schools comes from the teacher’s unions. Ironically, I know of many teachers and politicians who send their own children to charter and private schools, while fighting to prevent school choice for others. Parents at the local middle schools signed the East Bay Tech Academies petitions at an astonishing rate. Eight out of ten parents that I spoke with signed immediately when presented with the petition. Parents clearly support choice.

The unfounded fear is that these charter schools will hurt the district by attracting children from the district schools. The reality is that parents and students have already left the district in droves because they want options. The AUSD student population has declined by over 5,000 students from twelve years ago when my children were in the AUSD schools. At the same time, the population of Antioch has risen by over 20%. The student population should have increased significantly over this same period. Performance numbers, not charter schools, are the threat to the AUSD.

I want to thank the AUSD Board of Education for challenging the status quo in order to give the parents and students of Antioch more options.

The American Dream is a set of ideals which includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, as well as an upward social mobility. Education remains the best tool for achieving this dream. As a community we should support multiple venues for our children to succeed, including charter schools.

Tom McNell

Antioch

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One Comment to “Letters: Writer defends East Bay Tech Academies as necessary for Antioch students”

  1. Anthony Eastdale says:

    It is true that charters end up with higher test results than public schools, but it is not because they are offering a higher standard of education. Charter schools are not required to retain students that don’t fit their model. They fill their schools via a lottery system and then push students deemed as behavior problems back into traditional public schools. The same is true of students with special needs. They don’t have to answer to our school board either. They can expel at will. Using this system they simply siphon off the top performers from the district. Those top performers are already at and above standards. The charter system simple segregates them into a school by themselves. A lot of people who are supporting this school because they have a student that is currently under-performing will be singing a different tune when their student doesn’t get in via the lottery or is sent back to the traditional public schools. This is especially true when you realize they’re being sent back to a school that no longer has high performing students for them to collaborate with.

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