Why are you a Voice for Choice?
I’ve always been an active advocate on behalf of my children. I’ve always been involved in their educational process, every step of the way. Interestingly enough, I have a family of educators. They’ve worked in both the public and private sector. What’s concerning for me nowadays is that I don’t think, especially here in the city of Milwaukee, many of the kids are being afforded the same opportunities that I experienced. I went to a college prep high school, which was public. It was great for me. It was a great choice for a couple of my siblings. I do have a sister that graduated from a private school. The was great for her too. However, the most concerning thing now are the lack of opportunities.
Considering that Wisconsin has some of the most dismal rates of return on investments when it comes to education for our youth that are Black or Brown. Unfortunately, Wisconsin is leading in almost every category, in a negative way, when it comes to Black and Brown families. As active as I am in my children’s lives with education, this was almost a natural fit, so to speak. We didn’t start to look at other educational opportunities for our kids until they were in fifth going into the sixth grade, at which point in time we explored other public schools in the city of Milwaukee. Unfortunately, none of them really provided the curriculum that we were looking for to challenge our son and our daughter. Then we found several private schools that actually had the curriculum we wanted and a few other classes that were of interest to my kids.
“We pursued that school and it’s been great for my kids.”
We pursued that school and it’s been great for my kids. The impact has been significant. They’ve been challenged academically and the school has been incredibly diverse and they are growing into well-rounded people. With everything that they’re being taught from myself and my ex-wife, they’re being grounded and rooted in our Christian beliefs. Interestingly enough, one of the advocates here in Milwaukee that I truly admire and who was my school superintendent is Dr. Howard Fuller. He has had such a tremendous impact on my life as a young man growing up in the city of Milwaukee. I haven’t had to deal with many of the challenges that I feel our youth today are dealing with, but the good thing is, at least I had that opportunity to go to a college preparatory high school.
Many of my friends, unfortunately, went to other schools and academically we’re not stimulated or challenged. I went to Rufus King high school. Dr. Fuller would have tons of meetings at the school board and conduct youth council meetings, which I participated in. That gave me at a very young age an opportunity to feel that I can make a difference, make an impact and become an advocate. I’ve always been interested in politics and education. It’s almost as if though I’m walking in my purpose, this was groomed. I’ve been groomed to continue to do the things I’m doing politically and to see the tangible effects on the lives of the families that I’m assisting here in Wisconsin.
How did you hear about the education reform space?
This space has been focused around Milwaukee for so long, I thought, “I should do this as my line of work.” I had just relocated back to Milwaukee and a friend of the school choice movement, former Representative Jason Fields expressed his wish to run for his old seat again. He said he needed me on the team. Prior to that, I used to run campaigns. He’s a good long-time friend of mine as well, and we had a long series of discussions. I was able to put together a team, and of course, he is an advocate of school choice. So after we won that election and he was seated and sworn into office, shortly there afterward, one of our leaders within AFC, Scott Jensen, reached out to me and explained what they were trying to accomplish here in Wisconsin.
He explained what areas AFC was seeking to expand, and expressed his thoughts that I would be a natural fit with the team. Also, this role still allows me to do things politically and to work within the community. I claim that this is my city. I know everyone in the city of Milwaukee and the surrounding communities. Yet it’s challenging here in Wisconsin. It’s still been a great opportunity to educate others about our movement, to educate families about the opportunities of choice, and allow them to make that decision for themselves.
“We’ve seen an increase in parents exercising the choice to send their kids to a private school.”
Today, because of this pandemic, we want to get our kids back to school. We want them to thrive, and to be able to work with and socialize with their friends. What’s interesting is that because of the pandemic and because public schools went purely virtual here in Milwaukee, parents were going back to work and they needed another choice. This caused many parents to explore other options, whether charter schools or private schools, both in the city of Milwaukee or in the suburbs. We’ve seen an increase in parents exercising the choice to send their kids to a private school. It’s almost a hidden blessing from the pandemic because there were parents who were involved like any other parent in their child’s lives, but didn’t see themselves as an advocate. Now we’re forming like newer advocates in the school choice movement.
The reason that I am a voice for choice, because I am a key player who wants to make a difference in my community. This space has been a natural fit, and it’s been incredibly gratifying to see parents actually exercise choice. The tangible effects are that their happy, and their children are happy. It’s been one heck of a journey, but it’s been fulfilling. It’s been gratifying to see the results in these families of students that were once not being tended to.