An Arizona mother’s plea: provide every child access to a safe, high quality classroom

Special to redefinED

Editor’s note: Christina Foster of Phoenix, a long-time education choice advocate, pleads in this commentary for the passage of Arizona House Bill 2427. Foster’s daughter transferred this year to a micro-school located at the Black Mothers Forum, which partners with Prenda’s Micro-school program to create safe and supportive learning environments.

Arizona is a national leader when it comes to diverse school options. Having a statewide culture that embraces creativity and innovation in K-12 public education is critical for creating learning environments that allow every child to feel safe and thrive.

For more than 40 years, the state has had an open enrollment option. As with any program or law, modernization is the key to ensuring the needs of a community are met. While the state has a robust public charter school system and expansive open enrollment for public district schools, modifications are needed so that every family has access to the public school of its choice.

For decades, attendance zones have intentionally blocked students of color and low-income students from the best public schools. Enrollment processes like “first come, first served” disenfranchise the working poor who cannot afford to miss days of work to wait in line.

Unfortunately, many parents in low-income communities find the current system burdensome and confusing. It often is unclear to parents at what time of the year they are allowed to request enrollment and when they will know if their child is accepted. Also, some schools require parents to complete long applications and paperwork disclosing protected information – such as a student’s disability – before their children have even been enrolled.

The pandemic crisis has shed light on the need to enhance the open enrollment opportunity.  Not every school is right for every child, and every parent should have the opportunity to determine what is best for his or her child.

Parents and school leaders are making their voices heard in the Arizona Legislature, advocating for changes to the current system that will equal the playing field. Families of color are frustrated with the sentiment that we are forced to attend our neighborhood school even when it is not the best fit for our children.

House Bill 2427 will make long overdue changes to Arizona’s open enrollment system to assist families searching for the best public school for their children.

We can do better, and we must do better, so every child has access to a safe, high quality classroom.

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