By Lorraine McBride
Parental choice is the reason Lorraine McBride is not just another statistic.
I grew up as a minority student who was not finding success in the district school I was zoned for. I was often getting in trouble for playing around and not following the teacher’s directions in the classroom. My peers also influenced my behavior. School officials told my mother I would be placed in a different class because my behavior was too much for the teacher to handle. My mother was displeased. She knew there were more options. My mother asked around and eventually decided that private school would be a better learning environment for me. My mother found a second job in order to provide a quality education for me.
When I reached fifth grade, my mother enrolled me into St. Anthony’s Catholic School, in Dallas, Texas. It provided smaller class sizes, and a high emphasis on morals, religious beliefs and formal education. Those same principles were taught and practiced in my home.
My mother’s sacrifice paved the way for me to obtain my diploma from Bishop Dunne Catholic School. A few years later, I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Broadcast Journalism from Florida A&M University. If my mother had settled for the alternative behavioral classes in my zoned school, I am not sure what path in life I would be on today.
There are millions of parents like my mom who want their children to excel academically. But far too many of them can’t access a school that is the right fit for their children, either because they can’t afford to move to the school zone they prefer, or because they can’t afford private school. Parental choice matters because it is one of the most important social justice issues of our time. It helps level the playing the field for these parents. It helps open doors of opportunity for their children.
Sometimes, the schools that are the best fit for an individual child may be non-traditional schools, in non-traditional environments, with different approaches to teaching and learning. Sometimes, these schools are criticized because they’re different. But I believe it’s the parent’s right to choose. And I trust that parents know better than anybody else what’s best for their precious child.
Parental choice motivates parents to become advocates to change the conditions of their child’s educational experience. Florida and many other states are fighting over how to better serve low-income communities and provide equal educational opportunities. Expanding parental choice isn’t the whole solution, but it’s part of it. My life is proof of that.
My mother had the freedom to choose the best educational environment for me. My holiday wish is for all parents to have that freedom to choose for their children.
Lorraine McBride is community affairs organizer for Step Up For Students, a nonprofit that administers four state-supported educational choice programs in Florida and hosts this blog.
COMING TOMORROW: Our #Wishlist series concludes with Step Up’s Strategic Communications Manager Scott Kent.