Esmeralda Marcial is a parent organizer for the California Charter School Association (CCSA). For the past two years, she has been informing parents about the education system in Los Angeles and how to advocate for high quality education for all students.
Since early 2015, Esmeralda has been working with families in the Northeast Valley. In April 2015, former Assemblywoman Patty Lopez proposed an anti-charter school bill.
AB 2242 would have would have banned for-profit corporations from operating charter schools and would have blocked charters from being part of a network that allows them to share administrators and pool resources to purchase curriculum. Note that some education reformers do support banning for-profit organizations from operating charters (see the argument put forth by Marshall Tuck). However, not allowing charter schools to pool resources to purchase curriculum would have hurt these schools, and in turn, it would have hurt the students. Parents who had children in charter schools in the community voiced their concern, and this effort came out of the organizing that Esmeralda does through the CCSA.
Esmeralda sees her role as an organizer to inform parents about the choices that they have in educating their children and in how to navigate the Los Angeles Unified School District. This includes exerting influence in the school board elections. Esmeralda helped parents access school board candidates and engage with candidates to voice their concerns and needs. In the latest race for the LAUSD school board, Esmeralda was able to connect the parents that she organizes with candidates at coffee shops and other community meetings. The parents that she works with are also part of the CCSA Political Action Committee. The parents have a role in selecting who the organization ends up endorsing.
“I start with educating parents about the charter law of 1992. A lot of parents don’t understand how lucky they are to have choices. I tell the parents that before this law was passed that parents didn’t really have choices. It was the public school down the street, and if it was good, fine, but if it was bad, you still had to send your children there unless you could afford a private school,” Esmeralda said.
A product of LAUSD, Esmeralda attended Belmont High School. When she was in high school, she had ten minute passing periods in between classes because the school was so crowded. Belmont was one of the schools that was notorious for overcrowding. After high school, she felt that there was she was lacking in knowledge and was unprepared for higher education. There were over 5,000 students in her high school. Ultimately, Esmeralda persisted and did earn her bachelor’s degree in communication studies from California State University, Los Angeles.
“I would like to tell people that our charter parents see themselves as fighting for their children. They feel that they are doing what they need to do to fight for a quality education for their students. It hurts when people try to demonize these parents for wanting choices. These parents didn’t create the failing schools in their communities, but they want to make sure that their children and other children aren’t forced to attend poor quality schools,” Esmeralda said.
Esmeralda is a mother of an elementary school student, and she’s a former charter school employee. She’s glad that she’s able to work with Spanish speaking families to amplify their voice in the education reform movement.
For her work in the community to educate parents about their choices and how they can impact policy in education, we honor Esmeralda as a luchadora.
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