School Choice Week: Parents Have the Right to Choose What is Best for Their Kids

For my family, having school choice is a matter of URGENCY! The education system has been failing students of color and low income students for generations. Our kids do not have time to wait for the system to improve, they need change now. And for me, that means having school choice! 

I’m a daughter of immigrants, who trusted the system when they enrolled their children in our neighborhood school. After my parents immigrated from Mexico to California, they enrolled my two oldest siblings into our neighborhood school. They noted on their school application that their first language was Spanish. They quickly realized that meant that my oldest siblings were put on a “track” and were not taught English immediately. This put them behind academically. 

When it was time for my sister and I (who were born in California) to start school, my dad put down English as our first language. The school tried to force him to change it to Spanish; but he refused to ensure we were not put on the same track as my oldest siblings. My parents didn’t have any choice other than to send us to the school assigned by the district. Still, they believed that we would receive a great education. They trusted the system.  

Due to the bad experience I had in school, I did not want my children to attend the same schools I did. I’ve written about my experience in this blog. We moved to a better neighborhood and better district; or so I thought. But, the system still failed my two oldest children. 

Although they attended better schools than my husband and I did, they were not prepared to apply to a four year college, or motivated to think about higher education. I volunteered at every school meeting, and made it a point to meet teachers at back to school night. I tried to communicate with the school constantly, to ensure my children were receiving the support they needed. I was seen by them as that parent (the one who causes trouble) instead of being seen as the one trying to advocate for my children’s education. 

I am grateful in having school choice for my youngest daughter; I’ve shared part of our experience in this blog

But about a year ago, we were planning on moving out of state. I was concerned about my youngest daughter’s education. I wasn’t sure if I would have school choice. I wanted to enroll her in a school where she could continue to grow academically and personally. I searched online for charter schools in the Fort Worth area, and asked folks for input on the different schools. A friend mentioned Great Hearts Schools, as he thought they could be a good fit for my daughter. I searched online and realized there was a new school opening in Fort Worth. 

When I moved I intended to tour the Great Hearts School in Irving, and other charter schools in Fort Worth, to help me determine which was the best fit for my daughter. However, I moved during the pandemic, and everything was shut down. Unfortunately, schools were not open. I was nervous about which school to choose for my daughter, but decided on Great Hearts Lakeside due to their classical education model. 

We were on the waitlist since the lottery had passed, but soon after, I received the news that we won a spot! My daughter started attending Great Hearts Lakeside as a distance learner for her first semester. It was an adjustment moving to a new state and starting a new school online, but she did her best and received extra support from her teachers. 

During the second semester of the school year, we decided to send her to school in person. My daughter loves her new school even more now. She says her teachers and fellow students are all nice and caring. She enjoys learning and her favorite subject is science! 

My daughter thrives in a school community that is caring and inclusive to all students. Her excitement of what she is learning daily and her excitement of also having PE, Art, Chess, Music, and Latin classes has made me feel more confident that we chose the right school. We wouldn’t have been able to provide her the opportunity to receive a classical education, if it wasn’t for having the option of Great Hearts as a public charter school.

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Lety Gomez

Lety Gomez

Lety Gómez was born and raised in East San Jose. She is married with three children. She is proud to be the first in her family to attend college and receive a bachelor’s degree. When she was a teenager, Fr. Mateo Sheedy was the pastor of her parish, Sacred Heart of Jesus. She fondly remembers his passion for social justice, especially justice for the immigrant community in San Jose and ensuring that the parish youth had access to high quality education. Fr. Mateo instilled in her his passion for social justice, but for many years it was kept unlit, deep inside of her. It wasn’t until her youngest daughter was enrolled at Rocketship Fuerza Community Prep in 2014 that her passion for social justice lit up. Thanks to the Rocketship parent organizer at that time, Lety received training and the tools to use her voice for social justice and learned about community organizing. She is proud to be one of the many parents who worked hard to open their school, knowing that the kids needed and deserved a better public school. That struggle is why they named their school Rocketship Fuerza Community Prep. “Fuerza” is the Spanish word for force, strength, or power. Her passion for advocating for equity in education has allowed her to be a voice for other parents in her community who seek high quality education options. In 2014, she chaired the first parent-led Mayoral candidates forum in San Jose, where she realized the power parents have to create change in their communities. She wants to share her story with other parents in an effort to motivate them to get involved so they can advocate together, because united, they can make a change in the educational system and in their communities. In 2020 Lety moved to Texas, where she continues to advocate for equity in public education and school choice across our country.

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