In the “Skinny Budget” that the White House released this month, President Trump offered $168 million in new funds for charter schools. As public charter school operators, we appreciate the proposed investment in new schools like ours.
But we cannot support the president’s budget as currently proposed and we are determined to do everything in our power to work with Congress and the administration to protect the programs that are essential to the broader needs of our students, families and communities.
Budgets are statements of priorities, and this one sends a clear message that public education is not a top priority.
Together, we serve more than 220,000 children across 24 states. The children and families in our schools are not simply students and parents who are working hard to attain a great education, they are complete people with a range of human needs.
For our students, a fair shot at the American Dream also needs to extend beyond the classroom to the factors that affect whether all students have what they need to learn and achieve.
Every day, our community of students, families and educators are working together, and proving together, the power of a great public education. We believe in an America where all young people have a fair shot at succeeding — where a great education, all the way from pre-kindergarten to college, is not only accessible but affordable.
Instead, we are seeing drastic cuts to programs that are critical.
For example, Pell grants are a foundational vehicle for low-income students to afford college. Pell grants need to be protected, not redirected. Work study, so crucial to making college affordable for so many, should be enhanced, not reduced.
Americorps, which creates opportunities for tens of thousands of young Americans to serve their communities, has proven vital to our nation’s efforts to inspire a new generation of teachers. Americorps, and other teacher recruitment, training and preparation programs, should be invested in, not abandoned.
We see charters as an important part of a much broader effort to revitalize public education in America. Already, in cities such as New York, Denver, St. Louis and Houston, we see ourselves as partners, not competitors, with traditional school districts. These partnerships, we hope, will only grow in the future.
But to make that broader vision work, we need federal support for all schools, for all kids, not just kids in “choice” schools.
We are charter school organizations from all across the country, including: Achievement First, Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, Aspire Public Schools, Breakthrough Schools, Brooke Charter Schools, Blackstone Valley Prep, Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, DC Prep, DSST, Green Dot Public Schools, IDEA Public Schools, KIPP, RePublic Schools, Rocketship Education, STRIVE Prep, Summit Public Schools, Uncommon Schools, Uplift Education and YES Prep Public Schools.
We realize that expressing concerns about a budget that benefits our schools may seem counter-intuitive. But we want to join with all those who are fighting to defend public education as an essential pillar of our democracy. We will ask Republicans and Democrats alike to reject these proposed cuts. And we will double down in our commitment to teaching our students to value hard work, compassion and caring for the greater good, as they develop into the future leaders our country needs.
Dacia Toll is co-CEO of Achievement First, Richard Barth is CEO of KIPP Foundation and Brett Peiser is CEO of Uncommon Schools
This article was first published in USA TODAY.