Choice isn’t the last step

By Reggie Barbour

Being a parent allows you to become a certain type of person. You can cheer a little louder at little league games and people don’t look at you like you’re crazy. You can shed a tear when your child wins the spelling bee and other parents around you would understand. You can have a “quiet talk” in a store when your child just won’t stop touching things and people will give you the space to do that without passing judgment. It’s a silent type of support.

Being a parent gives you liberties that you may not have thought about before or even acted upon. One such liberty is increasing your activism in the well-being of your whole child. From doctors’ appointments where, if needed, you will demand to see a specialist because something just isn’t quite right to the playground when you see the other kids being mean to your child for no reason at all. You stand up for his or her justice, even if it’s just to have a turn on the swings. You become an advocate and an activist.

Living in D.C., we have the option of participating in the school lottery to “win” a seat at a public school outside of our boundary – traditional and charter. We also have options like private school, homeschools, online public education, co-op, etc. So, I thought it would be most fitting to talk about the importance of having educational options during National School Choice Week and how it relates to being an activist.

Not all schools are created equally. My sons attend a small Catholic school in the city. They play on the school’s sports teams. When we travel to other schools for games, most often towards suburban Maryland, we often see what we don’t have at our schools: sprawling lawns and campuses.,the upper school and the lower school in two different buildings, a sports complex, or drop-off and pick-up lanes – amenities that a small school in the city just doesn’t have the room to have.

For me, each of those trips teach me something. I see what equity doesn’t look like. I purposefully read all of the posters and announcements on the walls. I want to know what they are doing that our students are not. Even more so, I want to get ideas about things that I can advocate for, for our students. A middle school trip to Spain? Sure, why not? Let’s start working on it. Spanish immersion trip to the Dominican Republic? I think our kids would love that. Robotics team competition? How can we get involved?

Having school choice is not the last step in this process. You still have to be an advocate for your child to ensure that he or she is receiving all the school has to offer. You have to become an activist when change is needed and energize other parents to do the same. School choice is just one cog in this wheel. It takes everything that you have – being the loudest parent with the booming voice and endless time to show up and demand more and better for your child – to ensure your child and all children are given exactly what they deserve – access to high-quality educational options and the benefits that come with choosing one.

Happy National School Choice Week!