Sunday, March 8, 2009

School choice

Good evening!

I wanted to share this piece with you today. Education is often an important issue to many of us. Especially if we want to keep our young people out of trouble. Especially important for those parents who care about the quality education their children are recieving.

Hopefully man of you can relate to the trials and tribulation of this mother of two daughters from Harlem, New York who is unwilling to settle for failing neighborhood schools.

NY Daily News:
When I grew up in Harlem, my mother didn't know she had a choice in where to send me to school. She thought her only option was to enroll me in a failing District 5 school and hope I turned out all right.

I guess things wound up okay - but not really because of the public education I received. I did well in school, even graduated first in my class at the city public school I attended. But I wasn't prepared for the world. I went to Borough of Manhattan Community College, where they told me I needed to do remedial work just to stay.

Valedictorian of my class - and not ready for community college? Something was wrong with that picture.

Now, I'm a Harlem parent, mother of two girls: Ananda and Alaisia. I have so many hopes and dreams for my girls, but most of all I want them to have a first-rate education, one much better than I got. I want them to have true opportunity. But it's hard in New York City. I work at Best Buy. I live in public housing. My simple dream for my girls is not a guarantee.
Good intro, but there's more!
Last month, I went to a hearing on mayoral control of our public schools. There were many parents who were saying that to have better schools we need a louder "parent voice." They said the mayor has too much power. They said that we as parents need checks on his power, and that we need parents appointed or elected to more community boards so they can make policies for the system.

I'm sorry, but that's not what I want - or what I think is good for my kids. Remember, I have two girls who are 7 and 5. I don't want a vote on a panel or to have a voice in policymaking.

I want power - real power. I want the power to decide where I send my kids to school. I don't want to be seen but not really "heard."

The best way my voice can be heard is if I get to choose where my child goes to school. I should have excellent choices in my own neighborhood, the kinds of choices my mother wasn't able to take advantage of. I don't want my girls to be assigned to a failing zone school, and then be told by so-called elected parent representatives that I should be happy with it.

The parent voice I want is parent choice.
I'm sure there is something to be said about this. For the most part in Chicago parents do have a choice. Especially in choosing a high school let's say. I'm not a parent yet so I can't say for certain how much choice parents have in selecting an elementary school. I'm sure someone out there can comment on that.

Beyond that, what may some of you think of the idea of school choice? Has the time for that policy come for parents of Chicago Public School students?

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