“It is our responsibility as tax paying citizens of Georgia to advocate for better educational opportunities for all children!”
The Georgia Charter School Association is doing the State of Georgia Charter Schools in three cities; Atlanta, Albany and Savannah. The first one kick off in Atlanta on last Monday. This meeting is for school leaders and board members of all Georgia public charter schools. This week we hear from RaShaun Holliman, M. Ed., the Vice President of Policy and Advocacy for the Georgia Charter Schools Association sharing his views on the importance of advocacy and why we must advocate for educational equity for all children.
Progress of any kind is not made without using our voices to demand change. I have always been drawn to the work of the civil rights movements and similar grassroots efforts because citizens, particularly young disenfranchised people of color, realize there is power in their voices. I plan to bring that same passion into my new role as Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at the Georgia Charter Schools Association. I believe the spirit and belief of my voice, combined with those of many others passionate about education reform, will help move the needle in a substantial way.
The Georgia Charter Schools Association advocates for charter schools throughout Georgia and works to ensure more students in our state have access to high-quality and transformative public education. This is important work because far too many Georgia students, particularly low-income students of color, continue to struggle academically. Many of these students are unable to attend an excellent public school simply because of their zip code. That needs to change. In my new position, I will work to ensure as many Georgia students as possible have the opportunity to improve their life trajectory through education. It’s important to me, because it’s something that I experienced personally.
As an African-American male, raised by a single parent who struggled with drug addiction, the cards were stacked up against me. However, I learned early on that education was my key to realizing a different set of circumstances as an adult. In fact, I can still hear my great-grandmother telling me how doing well in school can change my life. Her words were true, and I’m grateful for the opportunities I have been given as a result of the public school education that I received.
When people learn about my background, many of them ask me how the product of a good traditional school education can be so supportive of public charter schools. For me, it has always been quite simple, I support any school that will give children a quality education. I became even more passionate about this issue when I became a father in 2004. While I always knew education was the key to open many locked doors, I felt an even stronger desire to ensure the schools responsible for educating our children, especially my son, would be well equipped to deliver a high quality 21st century education.
Here in Georgia, it is evident that many charter schools are having a positive impact on student success, especially for black and brown children who are educationally disadvantaged. A recent study by Georgia State University revealed that Georgia high school students who have attended a public charter school are four percentage points more likely to graduate high school than their traditional high school counterparts. The study also found that these students were more likely to enroll and persist in college. Atlanta charter schools are also making a huge difference for students. Recent data show that in Atlanta Public Schools, students who attended Charles R. Drew Charter School and KIPP Atlanta Collegiate were more likely to enroll in college than those who attended any other Atlanta high school. The data also show that KIPP Atlanta Collegiate graduates were more likely to attend a second year of college than APS graduates of other high schools. As a result, it is easy for me to be a strong advocate for Georgia’s public charter schools.
In my new role as Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, I plan on engaging as many parents and educators as possible to ensure their voices are heard under the gold dome, in school board meetings, and by candidates running to represent them in their communities. Currently, our state has more than 110 public charter schools representing over 86,000 students in 177 school districts. It is important to make sure our policy makers know that these public charter school students and their families deserve a policy environment that allows Georgia’s public charter schools to have the autonomy necessary to serve as laboratories of innovation with evidenced-based practices to improve academic performance. These schools also need to have the financial support necessary to ensure their success. Progress was made last year with the passage of House Bill 787, but we still have more work to do to achieve funding equity, particularly when it comes to making sure charter schools receive enough money to cover their facilities and maintenance costs.
I look forward to combining my voice with other education reform minded parents and educators to make sure all public charter students are given the same resources as all publicly educated students in the state of Georgia. Additionally ensuring that charter schools petitioners are given a fair shot in opening new charter schools for communities in need. Public charter schools are not the only tool in the toolbox of reform, but they are an important piece that should be supported by all policy makers and citizens. We owe it to our children to make sure they have the highest quality education that equips them for the jobs of tomorrow.