I am a single mother who knows firsthand the struggles of choosing the right school for your child. And because I have spent my professional life as a K-12 teacher, fundraiser, nonprofit manager, advocate and college professor, I have a 360-degree view of school choice.
Being a former public school educator did not make choosing a school for my son any easier. I was still just another citizen with a limited income, having to make an insurmountable amount of trade-offs in order to make sure my child received a quality education. I knew we could not afford the best education without moving or paying for a private school, both of which would reduce the amount of money we could save for college and limit our son’s higher education choices.
This is the story of many middle-class families who know that there is something better, but cannot make the numbers work.
Because of my own alumni networks, I found out that there was a new charter school opening in the area. The day it opened, I drove 40 minutes to the school to submit an application. This was long before online systems, back when applications had to be submitted in person. It crossed my mind on the initial drive over, just how hard it was going to be to drive 40 minutes or more in traffic every morning and every afternoon, but I was committed.
This was not a blind decision. I had spent my observation time as a new teacher at our neighborhood school, so I knew exactly what existed behind those doors. It was not a terrible scene, but my child needed a more structured environment.
My son spent elementary school and middle school in public charter schools where we were active participants in the school community. Choosing a charter school for my child was not an easy or perfect decision, because I don’t believe that there are many easy or perfect decisions in education. But we had choices that many parents never see. Throughout this time I also became an advocate for school choice because I truly believe that this is an issue of giving more families more choices.
Thanks to School Choice, My Child Takes An Active Role in His Education
As a professor and advocate, I instinctively knew that I had to start at least six months in advance researching schools, and then wait to see if my child would be waitlisted or granted admission. Knowing and exercising our educational choices has prompted my child to become an active participant in his own education, from which school he attends to which classes he takes. I want every child and parent to become active education consumers, because this will matter even more when making decisions about college.
Applying to charter elementary and middle schools prepared me for the high school application process, especially for knowing what questions I could ask and what to expect. It prepared my son to make more informed decisions about the curriculum that he wanted to experience throughout high school. I now have a high school freshman who is attending a public high school in Houston, Texas. Like many other parents, I understand that traditional public school is also a choice, and we had to fill out a “public school choice” application to gain entrance into his current program.
Our choice to attend charters for elementary and middle school helped create an independent learner who has his own opinion and realizes that there are many educational options available. Selfishly, as a college professor, this is the type of student I want to see in my class.
Our children are watching this fight and learning by the examples that we set. Having choices and being able to make better decisions is what makes this nation great.