Recently I attended the American Federation for Children’s policy summit in Washington, D.C. This event was an exciting, informative, two-day conference filled with panel discussions, keynote speakers such as Lisa Leslie and Mike McCurry, and networking opportunities with education reformers from all over the country. I left D.C. feeling similar to when I left the Foundation for Excellence in Education conference this past November. Invigorated. Energized. Hopeful.
But I also kept thinking these events should be experienced and enhanced, a thousand times over, by one very important, and missing, demographic.
My background is important, but not necessarily the reason, why I want to see more parents at education conferences throughout the country. I have been a Democratic activist and community organizer for the last 25 years. I now organize parents for Step Up For Students. Perhaps that does influence my thoughts and opinions.
However, I remember suggesting more parental involvement after attending education conferences as a teacher. I simply expect more now. I expect parents to be included in every substantive event, conference, policy discussion, roundtable, and town hall meeting, and I’m routinely disappointed when they aren’t anywhere to be found.
Of course, many of the participants are parents as well as education reformers. We bring that passion for school choice from personal experiences. I can talk about years spent driving my children out of county to put them in a public school that worked for them and then utilizing scholarships a few years later when a private school better fit their needs.
But we should hear more stories from a diverse population of moms and dads.
At the AFC Conference, Dr. Alberta Wilson, president and CEO of Faith First Educational Assistance Corp. and consultant for Capstone Legacy Foundation, shared my concerns. At several sessions, she spoke from the audience to implore that more parents be included – at every level.
I caught up with her recently and asked her to elaborate.