It’s interesting that most who responded in the comments section to an opinion piece by Lisa Kulicek and Cheyney Wortham have requested that “real parents” speak out and voice their opinions, but I seriously doubt that anyone really wants to hear them.
I am a parent with no ties to any of the major players in the education shell game, other than to be the parent to two intelligent, vibrant, amazing children. My youngest attends a top-performing CPS public school (94% African American and 43% low-income) and the other attends an average-performing charter middle school (97% African American and 84% low-income) – both on the South Side. We moved from the West Side, where they attended a small, private Christian school.
We are an African American, single-parent family. I work full time. Yet, I find the time to volunteer in the PTA and the local school council, while providing multiple enrichment opportunities after school and on the weekends. I am a graduate of the public schools and I earned my graduate degree online while working full-time. I offer this profile of myself and my children to give you a full picture of who we are.
I am thrilled with the opportunity to enroll my children in safe, clean schools with teachers who engage my children and offer them a school day rich with creativity and knowledge. I am not married to one form of school or another – I would never turn my nose up at a certain type of school because it has the “stink” or taint of being funded by a corporate entity. I could care less about the politics or the posturing or the game-playing. I am concerned with the quality of my children’s education and the experiences and opportunities these schools provide for them.
I am holding up my end of the bargain by being an engaged and informed parent who supports the efforts of my children’s teachers by helping in the classroom and with homework. I am holding up my end of the bargain by feeding my children wholesome meals and adhering to a schedule so that they arrive at school bright-eyed and ready to learn. I am holding up my end of the bargain by standing with my children against people who are committed to name-calling and bickering as opposed to working honestly and in good faith to find a happy medium.
You don’t have to like all of the major players in this game – I don’t. It is disheartening to hear “leaders” proclaim that certain schools are “real” schools or that the teachers that my children admire are somehow “less than” those who choose to pay dues to a union. I don’t want to hear another so-called leader proclaim that they fight for children, when in fact they fight to keep themselves on the nightly television news. It’s all distasteful and classless and the energy spent on this sucks the life out of the real purpose that I have when I get up in the morning.
My focus isn’t on them, it’s on my children. And my children have thrived under two different kinds of schools. Therefore, as a parent who has the most important investment of all, I value the choice that multiple types of schools offer. I have no confidence in the neighborhood schools in my immediate neighborhood, although we live in a decent area. I have no confidence that these schools can provide the kind of education that I demand for my children. And I am not the exception. I know many parents who are in similar circumstances as mine and they also have no confidence in the neighborhood schools that are being offered to their children. They are making the sacrifices to keep their children in safe schools by choosing private or charter overwhelmingly. And I cannot blame them. Truth is, we only get one chance with our children. If the foundation isn’t there, there is no way that our children will succeed. And who wants to take that chance?
The biggest gripe I had with the media during the strike (second only to the distaste I felt from the “real schools” attitude) was that parents were shown to be clueless, if they were shown at all. This strike included everyone except for parents, unless the parents interviewed supported the strike. And I take offense at this.
We are not clueless, mindless nitwits who are easily swayed by robo-calls from large, national organizations. Many of us are parents who were too busy getting on with our lives and trying to find safe places for our children to go. Many of us are parents who take offense when broad strokes are painted about our children because some parents are too lazy or trifling to take care of their children.
And please, spare me the label of being “the exception” because I am not. I circulate within a large network of the black community who are professional and educated and want the best for our children. We know what is available for our children outside of this city because many of us have experienced it ourselves through our travels and our educational experiences. And even if some parents have not been graced with the same opportunities as some, many of us still value a solid education. And if the neighborhood school or the charter school cannot provide that, it should be closed or repurposed. Period.
A change is gonna come whether you fight it or not. I am a parent who believes so much in the promise of my children that I am willing to buck the conventional system and make a choice that is better for my family.
Many of you wanted to hear the words from parents. But, do you really? Or are you just looking for another cause to fight about?
Rachel Smith Kovarsky