I’ve been a single mom for 15 years. I didn’t plan this. Like other women, when I got married, I dreamt of having a happily ever after, with a loving husband and a beautiful family. I have a beautiful family now but its just my daughter and I. Becoming a single parent forced me to look at school choice through a bigger lens. It wasn’t just about “What’s a good school for my daughter?” It was also “What school is going to help me as a single parent?”
We both needed the right support system. She needed a school where she would be challenged academically, be happy and safe. As a single mom, I needed more than a school, I needed a school community. I needed a school with professionals who understood I was a working mom who worked 45 minutes away.
I looked for different options and couldn’t find any public schools that met my needs. Back then, there were no charter schools near where I lived in South Gate. So I had to resort to finding a private school. I was double taxed because I paid my taxes for my local schools and paid a private school tuition for elementary school and middle school. Now that she’s in high school, I’m ecstatic she is in a charter school which “gets” my needs as a single mom.
Reality Bites: It’s on you, Mom.
For the first couple of years after the divorce, my ex-husband was great. He would pick her up like clockwork, once a week, had her every other weekend, fought me over holiday schedules. The works. I could count on him to parent her.
Then, things changed. She got older. Parenting wasn’t as easy as it once was. In a blink of an eye, the parenting responsibility was totally mine. One year, he only saw her 5 times including Father’s Day.
A big reality check was when he didn’t visit the schools I was considering. I couldn’t change his behavior. I had to modify what resources I had and used.
School was going to have to play a bigger role than I thought it would.
Here’s What I’m Getting At My Daughter’s Charter School, I Wish You and Your Children Had This Too
The decision to register my daughter in a small and charter school was practical. I wanted both a great school and an after-school program. Not one of the LAUSD public schools in my neighborhood had after-school programs until 5pm or 6pm when I could get her.
I would have happily enrolled her in a traditional public school. In fact, it would have been much easier on me, as a single mom, to have her in my neighborhood school. But LAUSD leadership is so disconnected from the needs of families that, as a system, they haven’t attempted to address this problem which forces parents like me to look somewhere else.
My daughter’s schools were and are community-based schools that understand their clients have working parents. They try to meet the needs of their community. They have modified their system to meet the needs of students and parents.
My Daughter’s School:
- Has an after-school supervised environment which is a “study hall” where students are encouraged to do homework.
- Teachers have after-school tutoring systemically which supports her learning. They’re investing in their students and help them regardless of what time it is or “when they’re supposed to leave.”
- Offers community college classes- on her high school campus- after-school! She is graduating from high school with a full semester of college completed.
- Provides after-school, student-led programs so students are happy to stay after-school such as theater and clubs.
- Offers students a gym where the students can exercise after-school including an area to do yoga.
I get to her school, without panicking, about whether she is safe. I can’t describe the peace of mind I have when I see her happy (or grouchy) when she’s done with her after-school activities.
All parents deserve that peace.
I know so many parents- especially single moms- who live with the constant anxiety about whether the kids are safe simply because “leaders” haven’t prioritized this.
Charters provide a model to replicate. I’m not saying they’re perfect. But they’ve figured this out and LAUSD schools should catch up with parents’ needs. Copy charters, please!
Some say that LAUSD’s hands are tied because of certain union contracts prohibit these common sense solutions. If that’s the case, LAUSD’s leadership has to reevaluate their priorities, change any contract that limits how to best serve students through the lens of what the families need, including families led by single-parents.
If you want parents like me to stay in LAUSD, get with the program and offer us what we need and want for our children. Stop forcing us out.
Alma V. Marquez
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