From the beginning, when my children were barely out of pull-ups, I was a school-choice mom. Living in a rural area, surrounded by cows and NASCAR flags, I insisted on driving 45 minutes one way, every day, so my kids could attend a Jewish preschool. Despite massive headaches caused by northern drivers on vacation, I knew the learning environment provided by the JCC was best for my kids, building a strong foundation to support lifelong learning.
As preschool graduation neared, my husband and I chose an excellent, traditional public school for them to attend for their elementary years. This school was not located in our neighborhood and we couldn’t afford to move. But, because I was a teacher in that same district, I applied for the choice program and my children were accepted. It meant I had to transfer closer to home and still drive a half-hour out of my way, but I felt fortunate to place my children in a school that would meet their needs.
After leaving the teaching profession, I once again exercised my right to choose. We moved the kids into a private Jewish school for the rest of their elementary education. My husband and I had to live in a simpler neighborhood and forgo little luxuries, like fashionable shoes and date nights, to make it work, but our boys excelled in their new learning environment.
For middle school, our family moved yet again, prompting jokes that compared us to nomadic ancestors, and we applied for a magnet program. Once more, we were lucky. Our sons won the lottery and were accepted into a dynamic, academically rigorous program.
Who knows where we’ll end up for high school?
During these public school years, I’ve been a consistent PTSA member. Joining this organization seemed the best way to be involved in my children’s school. PTSA volunteers are dedicated parents, teachers, and students committed to helping schools raise needed funds that enhance learning opportunities. I joined to show my support for those who were educating my children, and to act as an important presence among teachers and administrators.
Over the years, though, I sadly watched the PTSA take positions that alienated moms like me, moms who choose. Sure, the organization is a presence at my sons’ middle school – they sell magnets for cars and snacks at sporting events. The PTSA agrees that magnets are a valid choice, but parents who choose other options are not represented by the PTSA and, worse yet, are regularly dismissed in alerts and agendas. I would often read PTSA literature and wonder out loud:
“Why is a parenting organization working against so many parents?”
But I’m not one to give up easily.