When I heard that my son had received a spot at Achievement First’s Elm City College Prep Elementary School, it felt like my family had been given a second chance at our life in New Haven.

My son currently attends Lulac Head Start. As we started to look at what would come next for his education, I decided to fill out a lottery application for Elm City College Prep Elementary.

My daughters, who attend New Haven district schools, have excelled in their studies. However, I have always felt like more can be done. It seems like when my kids’ teachers have control over their students and classroom, my kids learn a lot fast. And when they can’t, my children lose valuable time in the classroom. 

I know that even the hardest working teachers can’t stop every incident that happens in their classrooms. Their jobs get even tougher when a child’s home life is unstable. But I’ve also seen firsthand how a child’s school work, behavior, and life overall can be improved when the entire community — parents, teachers, and administrators — pull together in the same direction.

That’s what I wanted for my son, and that’s what I know I will find at Elm City College Prep. As an Elm City College Prep kindergartener, my son will have the opportunity to learn in a new Achievement First pilot program with smaller class sizes, more hands-on opportunities, and more individualized learning.

My family was lucky to get into this school. Many of my friends and neighbors here in New Haven are looking for different schools for their kids. It’s a shame that not every family who wants their child to attend a public charter school will be able to get in. The hard fact is that there are not enough good options for all of our children across New Haven or the thousands of other students on waiting lists. That’s why so many hold out hope that their child will be admitted every year in the lottery.

Having said all of that, we are making progress.

Thanks to the governor’s leadership and the hard work of legislators who fought for more funding, more kids will be able to attend a public charter schools than ever before. It’s a great step, especially when you consider the state’s current budget.

The work is not over. Now that my son has a spot in an AF school, my next fight is to make sure that public charter schools get the same level of funding that district schools receive.

The fact is simple: when a charter school opens in a city, it provides additional money for that city and much-needed choices for parents who live there.

We can’t let something as important as our children’s education fall victim to the distortion that clouds other debates. When it comes to our children’s education, we need to keep our eye on the ultimate goal — ensuring that every kid has access to a great school.

Natasha Wiggins is a New Haven mother and part of the Coalition For Every Child.

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