I grew up in the sixties when civil rights issues were boiling over in my hometown, the San Francisco East Bay. In ninth grade, I was able to tutor a non-English-speaking little boy. I spoke Spanish and loved helping him. In my working-class family, education was considered the key to bettering your life. I loved learning and I loved working with all ages and languages.
I realized how inferior the quality of education was in my hometown and wanted to give children and families more so that they could freely choose and build their future. I chose to be a Spanish bilingual teacher. Sadly the state of California mandated that instead of teaching students to read in English they assigned me to teach them to read in Spanish. In the meantime, few students acquired proficient English reading, writing, and comprehension skills needed for middle school. That bothered me greatly. Spanish-speaking students were being denied access to the language of success and higher education.
I learned to be an advocate for educational access when the teachers’ unions and civil rights groups were pushing Spanish primary language development to the detriment of students. I love teaching young students to love learning, to enjoy building reading, writing, math, and history skills. I love taking families through a process where they see how rewarding, motivating, and proud their five-year-old can feel when they’ve achieved far more than their parents expected. I also love teaching kids and families the joy of cooperation and the value of discovering each child’s personal interests, temperament, and mode of engagement.
All students deserve to attend schools of choice. As a teacher, my own son and daughter were in a ZIP code of a failing public elementary school. School safety was horrible. Students were fighting in class and during recess, instruction was minimal, and my son and daughter witnessed terrible situations day after day. Family dinner time was shocking as they described events at school. I was able to volunteer at one point and witnessed students standing on their desks raging out of control. I witnessed teachers exposing students to inappropriate art and nude human figures. Cursing, abusive language and bullying was common. It was a nightmare.
I could not afford private education. I needed to work as a now-divorced mother. When the principal told my math accelerated son that he would not be allowed to take algebra because it would hurt other students’ feelings, I knew we had to move.
We had a reasonable house, a pretty lot with a view, and an affordable mortgage for my single income. I sold our home to move to a better-performing school district only to rent at double my mortgage payment. To supplement my income we cannibalized the profit from selling our home thereby preventing us from having a down payment on another home.
My son and daughter loved going to safe, high academic schools. Sporting events and social activities were calm and my kids enjoyed opportunities to develop themselves far beyond what our old community offered. I should not have been forced to sell my home so my children could experience safe and rigorous academic instruction.
“I should not have been forced to sell my home so my children could experience safe and rigorous academic instruction.”
Parents should be free to escape destructive schools using the tax dollars available for them. If a child moves out of state no one complains that the tax dollars follow the student. If a child changes public schools no one complains when the tax dollars follow the child. Neither should anyone complain when parents freely choose a school they value outside of their ZIP code designation.
School choice will put the proper focus on serving the students and their parents versus serving the existing system. Wealthy parents have access to educational choices. School tax dollars should be used to create equal choice for all students. The current climate in California schools has ignored the values and voices of many parents. Teachers’ unions, legislators, and school boards have ignored parents’ rights in their attempts to politicize another generation of voters. The education lobbies are openly creating a chasm between students, parents, and parental values and authority. Children need their families more than any teacher or ideology.