Education is Purple

As the Chief Marketing Officer, I’m tasked with creating shiny pitch lines like, “We build communities. We build schools. We build hope,” but what makes it so meaningful is that it is 100% true. I was a client before I signed on for the big show, and I would tell everyone within earshot that Building Hope was the best named organization on the planet.

When I couldn’t find funding for our tiny charter school in our tiny town with our unique public Montessori model, Building Hope stepped in and quite literally turned dirt into a dream-come-true. Had it not been for them, the best my fledging school could hope for was a prison-looking, easy-to-repurpose, facility next to a major highway at ten times the rent I was paying. As a charter school, we don’t get facilities for our students.

The charter goes through an exhaustive process of evaluation for approval, and then when we get a yes, it is a steel climb uphill to get the doors open.

Approaching bank after financier after shady loan shark, I had to explain over and over again: Yes, we are a public school. No, we can’t increase tuition. There is no tuition.

Yes, we are a non-profit. No, we don’t have 20% down on a $15 Million facility. No, our parents can’t pay for it. Again. We are a PUBLIC school. We do NOT get TUITION. We DO NOT have a rich uncle bankrolling us. And yes, we will be conducting school in tents in my backyard if this doesn’t work because the landlord of the strip mall we’re currently in is kicking us out, so we need the money now. No dice.

Building Hope came in and saved the day. They acquired land, shepherded us through the design process, and built a beautiful facility for the students. We rented from them at a below-market rate, so we could grow our school in a reasonable manner. Now, the school is thriving and has recently obtained a bond to buy the building. The public Montessori education now has a permanent home, which is a win for generations of students.

I’m so proud to now be a part of the Building Hope team, and we help as many charter schools with their facilities as we can.

However, the fact public charter schools are approved to serve the same students as their traditional counterparts, but then given less dollars and no place to teach the students remains an illogical hurdle that needs to be remedied.

There are band-aid programs in place to try to help bridge this glaring disparity, but the first time we were eligible for the “capital outlay,” was in year four of the school. It only covered a month-and-a half of rent. The other 10 ½ months came out of our per-pupil funding. Traditional public schools all fundraise to try to bridge the gap between funding and reality, and charter schools have an even wider chasm. 

Parents of public charter schools pay the same taxes as the parents of traditional public schools, yet the school they choose operates on approximately 71 cents of the dollar and pays for a facility on top of that. It isn’t fair to the dedicated charter school operators, and it isn’t appropriately stewarding the parents’ tax dollars. Their dollars are for children to receive a public education, and charter schools are public education. Underfunding them, and continually threatening to defund them does not serve the greater good. It does not serve families, and it certainly does not serve students.

After thirty years, it’s time to put the focus back where it belongs—the students. Providing effective education for our children is not a red-state issue or a blue-state issue. It is critical for the success of our nation to come together and do what is best for the children.

The need to educate our students is universal and omnipresent. It is not red. It is not blue.

Education is purple.

It is time to acknowledge that our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness includes our children. They deserve safe and effective education, and our country needs an intelligent, independent, adaptable crop of future adults to carry the mantle of responsibility for our country’s greater good forward, but it starts with the adults in the room now.

Let’s open up that big purple umbrella to protect our children and our futures.

Let’s change the conversation about education to one thing—what is best for the children?

Over the course of the last year, I have been privileged to meet charter school leaders across the country who have created and executed amazing, innovative, and effective educational models that serve students, families, and communities brilliantly.

They are all unique, but there are three core components they share:

  1. An inspiring dedication for meeting the children where they are to provide what the children need to succeed.
  2. Engagement with their communities, inside and outside the school, to be able to effectively serve their students.
  3. Providing the support students need to succeed in academics and life because the context of a person’s life impacts their ability to learn.

Those three qualities show up in every successful form of education, not just charter schools. However, the way in which charter schools demonstrate those qualities is vastly different because student, family, and community needs are vastly different. Being able to adapt to address these needs brings a dynamic quality to the education and results in greater effectiveness overall.

So why should these public schools have to fight for funding?

We have public charter schools entirely dedicated to serving autistic populations, Palm Beach School for Autism and South Florida Autism Charter Schools are two great examples) and they are doing so brilliantly. They have cracked the code on how to serve their students best. Why shouldn’t every city in the country have a school or schools like that? Doesn’t every autistic child deserve an effective education, and aren’t we all served when they become happy and productive adults?

There are public charter schools who excel in providing hands-on trade training alongside the academics: Elevate Academy in Idaho and Northeast Academy for Aerospace and Advanced Technologies, in North Carolina. They work with local industries to train local students for great-paying jobs in their own communities, which not only provides pathways of success for students and families, but also boosts the local industry and economy. Shouldn’t every community have a school dedicated to serving the specific needs of their families?

Countless charter schools provide unique and effective alternative models of education to best serve the unique needs of students. Our First slate of Building Hope IMPACT Awards Grant winners are a cross-section of excellence and inspiration in student empowerment, community engagement, and educational innovation, but it doesn’t stop there.

Proven educational models like Latin American Montessori Bilingual PCS in D.C., High-performing classical model schools True North in Florida, a charter military school in Louisiana New Orleans Military & Maritime Academy, groundbreaking global school in Chicago Academy for Global Citizenship, an empowering educational training ground for college success and support East Palo Alto Academy in California, a school whose students are tackling the real-world problems now in Albuquerque, Amy Biehl High School, and a school who puts JOY at the center of their curriculum in Houston, TX: Beta Academy all serve our public school students in unique and effective ways in pockets all around the country.

These schools are currently providing excellent public school education for rural, suburban, and urban students in both “red” and “blue” states, and they consistently outperform their traditional public school counterparts, with 25% less funding and without provided. Imagine how many more students could be served if public charters were given equitable funding and we drop the false narrative that quality education belongs to one political party or another.

It is far past time to change the conversation around public education to how to support and replicate what works, not if we should. The solution is in our hands.

We have taken the first step by calling out that education is not red or blue.

Now, take the next one, and provide equal funding for charter schools, so families can choose what is best for their children in every state.

Education is purple.

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Sherilyn Moore

Sherilyn brings a diverse spectrum of educational, entertainment, and business leadership experience to her role of shining a light on Building Hope’s Impact. It is her honor to help expand educational opportunities for students nationwide by making connections and sparking growth in the charter school community. She serves on the Minneola Charter School Board of Directors, the Turtle’s Nest Early Learning Center Board, and the Educational Growth Fund board. Her Master’s is in Creative Writing from University of Central Florida, and her Bachelor’s in is Finance from University of South Florida.