Legislation hurts public school choice options in R.I.

School choice is a simple yet powerful idea that so many parents hope to have for their kids. After all, every parent wants what’s best for their children, including a school that best fits their child’s learning needs, hopes and aspirations. Sadly, not every parent has the financial resources to afford private school tuition if they are interested in options that might not be available in their community’s traditional public schools.

This is particularly true in Central Falls, one of our state’s poorest communities and a city that I have had the good fortune of calling home for almost 40 years.

High levels of poverty and limited resources is one of the reasons why Rhode Island’s charter public schools are so critical, because they offer real public school choice options to all families, regardless of their financial means.

That is also exactly why the Segue Institute for Learning was founded.

A true exercise in community mobilization; we opened in 2009 and have been providing a high quality public school choice option to parents in Central Falls. We’re proud of our record of achievement and our past collaborations with the Central Falls School District, local colleges and universities as well as many community based organizations to improve education for all children in our city.

We presently serve 240 students in grades 6-8, but we hope to eventually grow our school to meet the needs of even more Central Falls families looking for quality public school choice options for their children in the Segue “K-5 Promise Academy” elementary school.

Unfortunately, legislation now pending in the General Assembly could effectively end our plans to grow by implementing a moratorium on new charter school and charter school grade expansions. While the legislation says this moratorium will be “temporary,” the last time the legislature put in place a moratorium in 2004, it lasted for five years.

A moratorium on new and expanding charter schools is just not right, particularly as so many families are on waiting lists to get a seat for their kids at Segue and the state’s other charter public schools.

Put simply, this legislation undermines Rhode Island families’ right to school choice options. It must be voted down.

Just as important is the need to support schools that meet the needs and demands of the constituency they serve in creative and innovative ways.

Angelo Garcia, Founder and Executive at the Segue Institute for Learning

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