Op/Ed: Why I support Rocketship – students’ and civil rights

By Argentina Dávila-Luévano

Earlier this month, I attended a hearing on the petition by Rocketship Education to open a public, elementary, charter school in Antioch. The meeting was attended by about one hundred supporters, mostly families, and mostly African-Americans and Hispanics. It was also attended by about fifty teachers and school district staff who opposed the petition, primarily members of the Antioch Education Association (AEA) and other union members.

I have a long history of supporting organized labor. I believe it is a fundamental right of workers to be able to band together for the purpose of collective bargaining. Because of my history as an advocate of workers’ rights, and my continuing efforts on behalf of workers, I’m sure many were surprised to see me supporting a petition that the local teachers’ union so strongly opposes.

So, why do I support Rocketship? First, I don’t see this as an issue of workers’ rights. I see it as an issue of children’s rights, and, more than that, as an issue of civil rights. The fact is, our public schools are failing our students, especially students of color and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. The ability to obtain a high-quality education is one of the most important, if not the most important, factors that contributes to children achieving their potential. But for years, the great majority of students in the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) have not been able to achieve even basic proficiency in core subjects.

Without changes to curriculum and other elements of pedagogy, instead of student success, we’ll continue to have the same results.

Families who are better off have other choices. They send their kids to private schools. They get  them into charter schools, even if they must make long commutes to do so. Indeed, some of the  opponents of Rocketship talked about having their children in charter schools. Many families, though, don’t have another option. Their children are stuck in the local public  school, even though it might spend years on the state’s list as low-performing.

All families should have a chance at their children receiving a first-rate education, not just those  who can afford it. Rocketship helps make that happen, as they’ve proven repeatedly by opening  schools in some of the worst-performing areas in the country, and finally providing children with  the chance that only their well-to-do peers previously had. They’re getting results, as has been repeatedly verified.

We can’t afford to leave vast segments of our community without better educational options. Let’s give our parents a choice for something better. Let’s give our students a real chance at success. I urge the AUSD school board to put our children first…and to vote yes on Rocketship.

Dávila-Luévano has a bachelor’s degree in Social Work – Child Welfare and is President of the California Leadership Institute.

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