Coco Llenas: Wishing all families had education choice, now

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By Hergit “Coco” Llenas

I wish tomorrow was here already. I wish we could look at today’s school system from the vantage point given from 30 years into the future.

Let’s imagine it is 2050, and in the United States of America every child, rich or poor, has access to a high-quality education, and the parents have become accustomed to deciding what is the best environment for their little ones. The arbitrary lines that forced a child to go to a particular school is a concept long gone and forgotten. In fact, people remember those rules and laugh at the absurdity of it all.

While taking a tour inside a gray, prison-like building turned into a museum of an old school, a child asks:

“Mom, who lived in these cages?”

“I don’t know,” Mom says. “I just don’t know how human innovation and imagination was cultivated in between these rows of chairs lined up like an assembly line.”

In silence, everybody in the tour group asks themselves: “Why did we allow this system to go unchecked for so long? For 150 years!”

“Well,” says the museum guide, as if he heard the group’s thoughts, “change may take forever if it does not come from the people. The people decide when it is time to crawl out of the sunken place and move into the light.”

If it is not serving you, my child, then GET OUT! That was the cry which inspired the ed-reformers. Those brave pioneers fought to provide a conduit for children trapped in schools that weren’t working for them, so they could flee to a new world in K-12 education, just like the underground railroad shifted slaves from captivity to freedom.

Finally, the system started to readjust, to accept the healthy co-existence of more and more school choices, until freedom of choice emerged as the new normal.

Change in public education came, just like change in other arenas, such as acceptance of biracial marriage, the right of women to vote, and the desegregation of schools. Oh, wait! …

Why is the achievement gap never closed? Why does the school-to-prison pipeline continue to be fed with dark-skinned youth? And why does the union fight so hard to stop progress from arriving?

The logic that supported the persistence of such a monolithic public school system would sound barbaric to the ears of the audience in 2050. Just like it sounds barbaric to us that in medieval times, doctors didn’t know about bacteria, and, as a result, went into surgery without ever washing their hands.

This Christmas, I have a wish: That we won’t have to wait 30 years to see that school choice has been on the right side of history all along.

School choice can be adopted across this land now. And then, finally, families could enjoy the right to choose any kind of high-quality school for their children as one of their many other rights, regardless of their socio-economic status or race.

Hergit “Coco” Llenas is Director of Latino Outreach for the American Federation for Children.

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of posts where various members of the education choice world share an #edchoice wish. For Friday’s post, CLICK HERE.

COMING WEDNESDAY: Step Up For Students President Doug Tuthill shares a bevy of education and criminal justice wishes.