Columnists Opinion

Supporting working families means accepting parent choice for schools

As we start a new year, a new decade, and move closer to a Democratic presidential nominee, charter school parents are hopeful that top candidates will reach out to working families like ours to gain a better perspective on our needs, and understand why charter public schools are so critical to our communities.

During a recent presidential debate, one of the leading candidates tweeted that “the [Democratic National Committee] should find a solution that lives up to our party’s commitment to fight for working people.” 

We know that the best solutions to ongoing struggles faced by working families like ours oftentimes come from our own neighborhoods. This is why, we ask our country’s current and future leadership to stop and listen to our communities, especially when it comes to parent choice.

In Pico Union and South Los Angeles schools like Equitas Academy and Green Dot Public Schools’ Alain LeRoy Locke College Prep Academy are serving predominantly Latino and African-American students from low-income households, and they are making a difference by doing something different: truly caring for the whole child.

These schools offer individualized assistance and attention to each student in smaller classroom settings, address parents’ concerns immediately without the need to follow endless, extensive and exhaustive protocol and engage parents in different ways that make us feel a part of the school community. Many offer mental health services as well as academic programs that address the developmental needs of students and provide additional tutoring in the classroom that make sure our kids reach their potential.

Too often, candidates and leaders speak about the importance of creating opportunities for people who are working and living in poverty, without fully understanding our needs or vision for our communities. For our communities, opportunity begins with access to a high-quality education.

This is why we ask our leaders to respect our freedom to address the needs of our children in the best way we know how, such as choosing a school for them that will help them succeed, and accept that our choice is a charter public school.

Each parent must find what is best for his or her children — a school where they will learn better, be taken care of and be safe. Our neighborhoods are rich with history and culture, but they are also challenged in a variety of ways, and our children, being our most precious gift and resource, deserve an opportunity to rise above these.

For each of us, the charter public schools in our areas provide programs and opportunities that help our children academically, socially and emotionally.

Excluding charter public schools from any conversation about public education breaks any promise made to represent the rights of working people. Political leaders must understand that in supporting charter public schools they are advocating for public education, as well as backing the rights of working people seeking quality schools for their children. This is key to creating a pathway out of poverty and toward upward mobility for our families.

Moreover, rather than focus on restricting charter public schools and access to opportunity for students of color, presidential candidates as well as state and local leaders must come together around the value and promise of public education, and work with parents to improve the system. Herein lies the solution to improving the lives of working people — by ensuring that our children succeed in America’s public education system. We can get there with their help.

Carmen Santos is a grandmother of three students attending Equitas Academy in the Pico-Union area near Downtown Los Angeles. Vickey Vaughn is the mother of two recent graduates who attended Green Dot Public Schools’ Ánimo South Los Angeles Charter High School and Alain LeRoy Locke College Prep Academy in South Los Angeles.