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Charter schools offer hope and opportunity in lower-income neighborhoods

Albuquerque Journal

By Patrick McDonough

March 24, 2024


A dear friend of mine has a standard question for his friends complaining about the state of education in New Mexico. He asks, “what are you going to do about it?”


Well, my wife Nella Domenici and I are doing something about it.We believe this is the social justice issue of our time — the lack of educational preparedness that is systemic in underserved, and often ignored communities. We know, based on results being achieved nationally in underserved communities, and at our Excellent Schools New Mexico (ESNM) partner schools, that this can be, and therefore must be remedied.With a bipartisan group of outstanding New Mexicans, we founded ESNM in 2016.


ESNM provides start-up capital, zero percent interest loans, facility development, talent recruitment and charter authorization services to new school founders as well as existing top charter school leaders looking for growth capital.Most of our partner schools are located in our underserved communities in the Albuquerque South Valley, south Santa Fe, or near the Navajo Nation. At scale, our partner schools will be teaching close to 9,000 students.Freed from bureaucracy and authorized to enact their own vision for teaching math, reading, writing and other subjects, our leaders recruit and train their teachers, and supervise more in-class hours through the school year.


Early results are promising. Our students are outperforming their district peers in math and reading, in some cases substantially. While these results are encouraging, we feel the best is yet to come. We are disproving the myth that the children in these underserved communities can’t achieve the same academic results as the children in our best schools....This is not an indictment of all public district schools.


There are many outstanding district schools in New Mexico, but typically they are clustered in more affluent areas of the state.The real failing is in our lower-income neighborhoods. It is in these neighborhoods where outstanding charter schools can create options for frustrated parents who want their kids to enjoy the great American dream.


Competition is an essential ingredient to the American success story. Nella has never been afraid to compete. Organizations like ESNM will ensure there are high quality schools that offer opportunities for all New Mexican children, irrespective of their ZIP code.


So, to answer my friend’s question, Nella, I, and many other committed New Mexicans are doing something about it.Read the full op-ed here.

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