I live in Oakland and there’s a lot of talk about charter schools and consequentially, those talks have splintered off into other related topics. One of those topics is Common Enrollment.

Common Enrollment, which has other names such as Unified Enrollment or One App, has been the new apple in the eye of both reformers and anti-reformers. I’ve written about this before but the general idea is that families would have only one application to fill out for both traditional public schools and charter schools. In addition, general information on all schools would live in one place and students will no longer hold multiple spots in various schools during enrollment allowing for more students to get into their first and second-choice schools.

I’ve been in spaces where folks are loudly opposed and other spaces where folks are loudly for. Here are MY thoughts on the situation. And just to be clear, I’m a free Black man out here in these streets, I speak for me and only me.

1. Education systems have historically underserved black folks. For all my people who don’t like school choice please take me to a time in history when we were doing an amazing job of educating Black folks living in poverty. I want our public school system to grow and become the formidable option that parents deserve. I live to make that happen. I sacrifice to make that happen and I know a bunch of other folks that are doing that as well all over this country. However, it’s pretty well documented that we haven’t always done too well for Black and Brown poor folks since, well…

2. Yo, if you hate charters, you can still hate them. Common Enrollment won’t change that. Yo, I’m personally agnostic. I know how important education is when you’re poor and Black. I was both and I know what the ability to go to college has meant for my life. I am more than okay with a parent having options and choosing what is best for their child and family whether it be a traditional school across the street or on the other side of the city. I don’t care if they choose a charter school or scrape up the money to send their child to a private school. That’s a deeply personal decision.

3. So if you just hate charters then continue your campaign against charters. I don’t think you’ll stop anyway so keep preaching your gospel on how charters are the devil if you like. Your campaign may help persuade a family to make a favorable choice in your eyes. That’s your right. Just don’t take the option away from parents to exercise their right to choose on an easier platform.

4. Everybody, please get over yourselves. Anti-reformers don’t like the idea because they think charters will take over while some charters hate it because it forces them to relinquish control. I say that respectfully, of course.

Denying families easier access when it’s possible is incredibly whack and tells me folks don’t trust parents the way they say they do. There’s a great episode of South Park where the kids are working hard to get their friends to vote – that is, until they find out their friends want to vote for the OTHER candidate. That’s how this feels to me at times. I hear EVERYONE say parents need more information and more access but the main reason most folks want to prevent Common Enrollment is because they are fearful that all of the poorer, underserved parents will choose charters. What?!? You get the gas face, homie. Also, if that is the real issue, shouldn’t we all have an honest conversation as to why that might be? Real question here, how amazing could we be if we all genuinely worked together to improve things for kids?

5. We can learn from successes and failures of common enrollment. So let’s improve it and give people the equity they want. I’ve read arguments both for and against the idea of Common Enrollment. I’ve read about how it helped bring more students back into Denver Public Schools in both charters and traditional schools. I’ve read how in some places, it’s pulled kids from traditional schools over to charter schools. I want to give us all the benefit of the doubt, that we can work together and allow ourselves to be smarter today than we were yesterday. I believe that we can all put politics aside to create a system that educates our kids where opposing dogmatic ideologies can work together and take the best from each other. Our babies need it.

This post was republished from One Oakland United.


Dr. Charles Cole, III​ is an educator focused on the advancement of youth of color, but more specifically Black males. This passion comes from his experiences growing up without proper support, including being homeless and attending more than ten elementary schools across the country while his parents battled addiction and incarceration. Throughout that experience, no adult, no group, no organization ever asked him how he was achieving success nor how he was surviving. Schools were not a place where students in similar predicaments were learning. This experience helped lead to the publication of his first book, ​Beyond Grit and Resilience. As founder of ​Energy Convertors​, Charles comes from the community and has shared many of the students’ experiences. Previously Charles served as a social worker, a Director for Teach for America, the Vice Chair of the California Young Democrats, Black Caucus and at a director’s level with various youth-focused nonprofits. n addition to founding Energy Convertors, Charles is a national speaker and a writer, and he can be found in Oakland and around the country working with youth on how to equip themselves appropriately to lay the groundwork for a bright future. Charles is currently a board member of ​UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital​, and co-host of the ​8 Black Hands Podcast. Charles’ life goal is to better the communities he grew up in, which include Chicago, Paducah, KY, and Oakland.    


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