I firmly believe in the power of public schools! Education is the great equalizer. We cannot have true equity in our country, if all children don’t have access to high quality education. I am personally invested in this belief, because my family history is an example of the power of education.
A child’s access to education should not be determined by their skin tone, their zip code or their parent’s bank account.
A child’s access to education should not be determined by their skin tone, their zip code or their parent’s bank account. Unfortunately, this has been the case for much of our country’s history. My own grandmother, for example, was only able to go to high school because the black school was located too far away.
Nonetheless, my father became the first African-American professor at University of California Los Angeles. Even though his parents were only educated to the eight grade, he was fortunate enough to go to an excellent integrated elementary school. He continued his education in California’s excellent public college system and funded his graduate education with the GI bill. My dad was only able to “pull himself up by his own bootstraps” because of the educational opportunities provided through his families choices and a rich array of support programs funded by CA taxpayers.
Unfortunately, my father’s experience has not been the case for all Americans. Even when black and brown children did gain access to schools, they were often inferior. Justice Thurgood Marshall successfully won the Brown vs. Board of Education case which ended racial segregation in public schools. Nonetheless, many middle and upper income and white families chose to flee forced integration during the early 1970s by placing their children into private schools or moving to the suburbs. As a result, our urban public schools became less integrated. This has led to efforts to take money out of the public school system through charters, vouchers, attacks on teachers unions and budget cuts.
Choosing a school for your child is more than a personal choice, it is also a political act. When educated, upper and middle-income families pull their kids out of public schools, they not only reduce school funding based on attendance, they also take away valuable fundraising and capacity building from public schools. The money families spend on tuition for a select few, might otherwise provide essential “extras” that all children deserve to enjoy: diverse classroom libraries, technology, enrichment in art, music and science.
Choosing a school for your child is more than a personal choice, it is also a political act.
Educated families also help to maintain quality instruction in schools. Immigrant families are less likely to have time to plan fundraising events when they must work two jobs. And they are less likely to advocate for needed changes if they are unfamiliar with the American education system. When middle and upper income families pull their kids out of public schools, they take much needed financial and intellectual capital with them.
That said, I understand that all parents must make difficult choices about the schools they choose for their children. For some parents, this choice will be outside of the public system. If you are one of these parents, I hope you find the information and resources I’ve provided to be useful. I also hope you will consider ways to get involved in making sure that all children have access to a great education, either through donating or volunteering to organizations that serve our public schools.
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