Op/Ed: School Board’s Rocketship vote was “watershed event” for Antioch

By Dr. Lamont A. Francies

Last Wednesday, in what was truly a watershed event for the city of Antioch, the Antioch Unified School District Board of Education voted 3-2 to approve the application by Rocketship Education to open a public, elementary, charter school in our town.  A multicultural coalition of community members turned out in large number to support a better future for our children. The community rejected the soft bigotry of low expectations often placed on students of color, and instead advocated for educational opportunity for all, not just those with the economic means to obtain a better option for their children.

The night was not about reproving teachers, but improving students. The decision gave parents options when facing educational obstacles. We can no longer afford to be more interested in saving schools than saving the children that actually occupy them. For people of color, education has long been a ticket to freedom, a ladder out of the pit of poverty, thus making it the civil rights issue of our time. African-Americans seeking a better life have been proponents of school choice since the days of slavery.  They created Freedom Schools, now the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which rebelled against Jim Crow and economic exploitation.

In the end, though, enough Board members recognized that the conversation had to change.  This wasn’t about good versus bad teachers, but a lack of viable options, a lack of real choices, a lack of competition that has resulted in a system that, for too long, has simply become, “a pipeline to prison” for many young people in our community.

Too many of our schools have become failure factories more interested in filling seats than filling minds.  Wednesday night was about breaking up the bureaucracy and giving parents today the choice for a better tomorrow. In 2016, failure is no longer an option, good intent must be replaced by better outcomes. The arrival of high performing schools is good for all mediums of education in Antioch because at the end of the day: rising tides lift all boats.

Francies is a former counselor in the Antioch school district and pastor of Delta Bay Church of Christ in Antioch.

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