Could you tell me why you are a voice for choice and what school choice means to you?
I am a voice for choice for a few reasons. The main reason is because for me and for my family, education made such a difference in our lives. It really changed the trajectory of my life and for many of my siblings. I want to be able to advocate for similar choices on behalf of families so that they can have options to live out the American dream.
How did you get started in this work?
I learned about education reform and the school choice movement when I was in college looking around at some of my peers. We had such different experiences, but you could also tell that some students felt better prepared for college and career than other students. I started really getting interested in how can we do better for all students. That’s when I first started learning about this movement. After that, I stayed hooked because there are so many so many issues that you can work on if you are into public service, but education is almost like a first root. If we can get education even just a little bit better, many of those other issues would go away. That was interesting and inspiring to me.
What are some things that surprised you in this line of work?
One of the things that surprised me when I first started working in education reform is just how little information parents have about the schools that their children attend. Many times schools, and those can be schools of all kinds, just don’t do a great job of being really transparent about how they are performing and how they’re serving students. If you don’t have a lot of information, you can feel trapped and you can feel stuck or conversely, you might think that your student is doing really well. That was such a surprise when I would meet with families who didn’t know that their student was three grade levels behind, and that came as a shock to them. They were just shocked and offended that no one at the school had ever told them. That was very new to me.
What does your work entail today?
I spend most of my day thinking about what actions we can take to give parents more agency in the life of their children when it comes to education. That might be talking to parents about options in their area, including pods and micro schools, but also private schools, homeschooling charters and magnets. Perhaps it’s working on a website that’s a school finder website for families who didn’t have access to that information. They can just look on their mobile device and see how their neighborhood school is performing. We want to make it really easy for parents to learn about schools, but I also spend a lot of time talking to policymakers about how to take these ideas and create policy that can be really strong levers of change in getting better outcomes for students.
“I spend most of my day thinking about what actions we can take to give parents more agency in the life of their children when it comes to education.”
Is there anything else that you would like to tell people?
When I was growing up, we lived in a low-income and working class neighborhood. We were zoned for schools that were some of the lowest performing the state and some of the least safe schools in the state. My mom sacrificed so that I could go to a private school. We had a scholarship from the diocese, it was a Catholic school. That scholarship for me, and then for my siblings to attend, made all the difference, and changed the course of what my educational career would look like. I really think that experience instilled values that remain within me today. She made that sacrifice, but many families can’t make that sacrifice. The challenge for us is how to bring similar opportunities to families who don’t see a way out and upright.
“I think a lot of people of color have been led to believe that the fight for educational justice ended with Brown vs Board of Education. The idea that the fight ended with integration is just not true.”
The second thing that I think is really important, particularly in this time when we’re talking a lot more about equity and really fulfilling the words of the Framers of our Constitution, that all men are created equal. When we think about that, I think a lot of people of color have been led to believe that the fight for educational justice ended with Brown vs Board of Education. The idea that the fight ended with integration is just not true. Our ancestors were not merely fighting for access into a building. They were fighting for what was in that building and for what was the guts of that building. Now if we look around, I think a helpful question to ask is “what do people empower?” People with the most resources and the most privileged, what educational decisions do they make for their own children? By and large, they do not send their children too low performing schools based on ZIP code. Why then would we ask Black and Brown families to do that for their children? There is no less care for their children. There is no less love for our children. What we’re fighting for is access to what people of wealth and privilege have always had. That’s why we’re doing this work.