Anessa Rodriguez (Lumen High School): Charter school students deserve equal funding

Mar 14, 2023 | Articles

Source: The Spokesman Review, Spokane WA

“We should be heard. We should be seen.

We deserve better.”

— Anessa Rodriguez, Charter public school student at Lumen High School

By Anessa Rodriguez

From the day they’re born, as they grow and learn, every parent imagines what school will be like for their child. Maybe their hopes are based on their own great experience. Some parents may want to make sure their child has a better experience than they did.

In my family, my four siblings and I attended traditional public schools. Academically, I did all right, but I struggled to feel like I belonged. In ninth grade, I found out I was pregnant. There are many things I had to think about, and continuing my education was only one. So much was at stake.

Planning for my future and envisioning the life I want for my daughter were happening at the same time. Then I learned about a public school with high academic standards that was designed for parents like me. As I move forward, my achievements in life will be shaped by this public school that recognized my needs and rose to meet them. Today, the state Legislature allows a funding shortage at public schools like the one I am attending because it is a charter public school. I am asking lawmakers to reconsider and support equitable funding for charter public schools in Washington.

Charter public schools are uniquely able to offer what students in their community need. State lawmakers send a message to students like me when they do not provide us with the same resources as our peers in traditional public schools. The message is that charter public school students are less. My parents are taxpayers into the public school system, and as a parent myself, I will also contribute for my daughter. But despite circumstances that make a charter public school the right school for me – and many others – current state law says public schools like mine cannot access local school levy funding. Of all the things I am learning, that is one reality I wish wasn’t true and I hope that lawmakers close this gap with state funding.

I attend Lumen High School, a charter public school here in Spokane. Lumen has created opportunity, challenged me to take it, and wrapped around me and my daughter with the support that gives me confidence to move forward with skills and knowledge I will use as I advance in my education and in my career. LHS is committed to helping “two generations” and to making sure I can be a successful student and parent. Other charter public schools are rooted in their communities differently, serving students from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life.

I learned that one-third of the class of 2022 from our state’s charter public schools were first-generation high school graduates, and 70% of them were accepted into four-year colleges. To me, this should be celebrated. Sometimes people need different things to feel like they belong and that they are safe. Isn’t it better to help them so they can be successful?

Because of social media, everyone’s opinions get shared and I know plenty of people have trouble relating to and understanding today’s generation of young adults. But it seems like every generation can agree that when students finish school, they should be prepared for life.

Life takes different twists and turns, and if we can help someone’s education fit the twists and turns of their life, the better it is for all of us. Charter public schools are not private schools, they are public schools that are open to everyone who needs them. I am asking for leaders from my community and those who serve us in Olympia to acknowledge that charter public school students are worthy of their support and prove it by making sure the state funds our schools in the same way it funds all other public schools. It is not only what is fair, it is the right thing to do.

I never want to have to explain to my daughter that for some reason the government of the place where we live has decided her education is worth less. But today, that is what charter public school parents have to accept for their students. I am unique because I am both. We should be heard. We should be seen. We deserve better.

Anessa Rodriguez is a student at Lumen High School, a charter public school in Spokane.