“Where are the parents who support school choice?”
“Where are the parents who support parental empowerment?”
“Where are the parents whose children benefit from education reform?”
These are typical questions from traditional parenting groups, groups that sometimes say they represent Florida parents in all educational matters. They have to ask the whereabouts of moms and dads of more than 1.5 million schoolchildren of choice, because such parents don’t tend to be in their membership files.
To the extent these choice parents are low-income and single moms who choose options such as the tax credit scholarship, they do indeed tend to be less visible in the political sphere.
Get ready, because that’s changing.
Early Wednesday morning, families from all over Florida, from Miami’s inner city neighborhoods to rural Pasco County, will board buses with their children and teachers and travel five to 10 hours to get to Tallahassee for School Choice Day. Organizers expect more than a thousand participants to gather and show lawmakers, traditional parenting groups, and everyone else the real face of parental school choice.
They won’t look like right-wing corporations. There’s a good bet they will be racially and economically diverse. In other words, they will probably look like you and me.
The rally is being coordinated by Florida Alliance for Choices in Education (FACE) and the Florida Chapter of the National Coalition for Public School Options. Participants will be on hand to represent charter schools, virtual programs, magnet schools, McKay Scholarships, the Tax Credit Scholarship Program, career academies, and home-schools.
“If you care about black children, you have no choice but to participate,” says T. Willard Fair, the President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Miami.
He’ll be there.
“It’s important that we come together to celebrate all of the school choice options currently offered in Florida,” said Wendy Howard, a parent activist and director of FACE, “and to thank our school choice champions for expanding options with fair access and equitable funding.”
She’ll be there, too.
Proponents will gather at the Leon County Civic Center for advocacy training sessions while their children make signs and write letters to legislators. At noon, everyone will wave those signs and march to the Capitol, ending the rally with speeches and celebrations in Waller Park.
Later in the afternoon, rally goers will visit with legislators and speak about their own experiences with education in Florida. They will also show support for laws making their way through the legislature this session. Laws like The Parent Empowerment Act, which will make it illegal for children to be stuck in an ineffective teacher’s classroom two years in a row. The law also allows parents to get together and turn around failing schools.
This crowd intends to send a message to lawmakers and the media that school choice is a vital right and here to stay.
Get ready. These are the parents who are underrepresented in traditional parenting groups. where they are often discounted or ignored. These are the parents those groups are always asking about.
I’ll be there working with FACE to coordinate things, and I urge you to come meet them. They’re on their way. They will no longer be ignored, and they’re ready to speak for themselves.
So listen up.