Will Parent Voices Be Heard When It’s Our Children’s Education at Stake?

Despite living more than 300 miles apart, as parents of students attending California charter schools, we’re connected by a single fight — the fight to have our voices heard when it comes to the education our kids deserve. 

Both of us were raised in communities of color where the traditional neighborhood schools have failed students of color for generations. Unfortunately, things have not changed much since we were in school, and we have been fighting for our own children’s right to attend high quality schools year after year.

When it was time for both of our daughters to start their educational journey, we applied to a local public charter school that we believed would be the best option for our children. We both wanted a better experience for our children than what we had. Thankfully, we had a different option to consider.

Choosing where our children attend public school is one of the most important decisions for both of us as mothers. The biggest frustration that we have both as parents and as members of our beautiful communities is we’re never invited to the table to discuss the education policies that affect our ability to make those choices directly impacting our children. Parents and students across our state deserve to be heard and taken into account by our representatives who have the power to impact our kids’ education. 

That statement is perhaps more true now than ever as legislators debate Assembly Bills 1505 and 1507. If passed, these bills could devastate public education for thousands of students, most of them students of color. During the Education Committee hearing on April 10th, many families including parents, grandparents and students opposed these bills during the public hearing. Hundreds of families from all over the state of California took an entire day off to advocate. And now these two bills will be heard in the Senate Education Committee on July 10th. I wonder if parents will finally be heard. Let’s hope that’s the case, like in the case of AB 1506 and SB 756, which were both put in the suspense file.  

As a matter of fact, AB 1505 barely passed the assembly floor. And it was only after the author, Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, called the vote more than ten times, he finally got the result he wanted. Is that how we pass bills? By hounding fellow Assemblymembers to change their votes by making deals on the Assembly floor? 

Why are state legislators so eager to author bills that will get rid of high quality options when data shows that charter schools are providing a high quality education for underserved students? The answer is simple; parent voices are not being heard. We are told that our input matters, and we are asked for it. But then our perspectives and experiences aren’t respected and our recommendations are ignored… Yes there are some legislators and/or staffers who spend 15-20 minutes with their constituents. But to what end? That’s only the beginning of the conversation with one individual. We need equal time at the table where decisions are being made.

As parents, we have the most at stake in our children’s education. It’s why we’ve traveled to Sacramento at least three times in the last two months to oppose the divisive legislation that will have the power to close down our schools. The future of our daughters’ education is at stake; our right to school choice is at stake. Our biggest fear is being forced to send our daughters to traditional public schools that have been failing students for decades, and that our daughters will not be prepared and motivated to attend college and be successful in their chosen careers. We will not accept this. 

The words of Shirley Chrisholm saying, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair” really resonates with parents like us. To our elected officials debating these bills, know this: we are still here. We will drag our own seats to your office and to the Assembly and Senate floor if need be, but it’s time you start listening to our needs and responding respectfully. We demand and deserve nothing less for our children. 

Roxann Nazario is a mother of a 5th grader who attends Fenton Avenue Charter School in Lake View Terrace.
Nazario
is a parent advocate from
La Comadre working towards educational equity in California.


Lety Gomez is a mother of three whose youngest child attends Rocketship Fuerza Community Prep in East San Jose. Gomez is a parent advocate from
La Comadre working towards educational equity in California.



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