Rallies tend to be choreographed political endeavors, but the video above is worth your four minutes if for no other reason than the glimpses of the parents who participated.
This school choice rally was held at the Florida Capitol on April 3, and it represents something you don’t see every day. It brought more than 1,000 students, parents and activists together to celebrate the full spectrum of school choice – from magnet schools to career academies to charter schools to online courses to tax credit scholarships for low-income students and vouchers for students with learning disabilities.
Forget the attendance numbers, which incidentally were stronger than any of the PTA-type parent rallies in recent years, and look instead at the faces. They are remarkably diverse, racially and economically, and some of them traveled all night and missed work to be there. They brought with them their passion and their belief that the school they chose is working for their children. And they are hardly alone. In Florida last year, 1.5 million of the students in PreK-12 – or 43 percent – attended something other than their assigned neighborhood school, and this kind of event is a reminder that parents are choosing their schools in ways that also change the politics of public education.
No one should read too much into a political rally, but, at a time when the more traditional parent associations continue to fight many of the learning options these parents consider essential to their children’s future, there is something poignant here. Many of these parents have felt disenfranchised in the past, and their magnet choice or charter school or scholarship has given them a sense of educational ownership. To see them fight to keep these school choice options is uplifting, and not because it reflects one political ideology or another. It means they believe in their child’s education, and that has to accrue to their child’s benefit.