For most of my daughter’s sixth-grade year, I hated 2:00 p.m. Like clockwork, I’d receive a call and an email at 2 telling me that she had to stay after school for some form of detention, euphemistically labeled college prep, mandatory tutoring, or refocus.
My husband and I, both working parents with inflexible schedules, had to scramble to figure out something.
At 4:00, she’d have to sit in a room with all the other misguided students and compose essays about why she forgot her MLA heading on her paper, why her computer wasn’t 80% charged at the start of the school day, why her belt was brown and not black, why she DIDN’T HAVE AN ERASER ON HER PENCIL.
At 5:00, I’d have to fight rush hour traffic, carpool absent because of the delay, trek across town to extract her after a 9-hour school day and sit with her as she cried over ninety minutes of homework.
These are the hoops “involved” parents jump through to get “the best” charter school education.
Imagine these hoops for single parents, parents without this school near their neighborhood, or parents of special needs children who struggle with remembering things.
Imagine students of color being held after more than all the white kids combined as they groom them to obey the norms of white society.
You don’t have to imagine it because the majority of families at these charter schools have helicopter parents whose sole goal is COLLEGE. At any cost. Even the cost of shutting down neighborhood schools, stripping Black and Brown neighborhoods of their sense of community and teachers of a decent salary.
Imagine a typical public school, where we open our doors to every student, and we don’t make parents sign contracts where they agree to last-minute detentions because we work with students on second chances.
Imagine students of every demographic and race, every language, whose family circumstances prevent their parents from being as involved as the parents at these charter schools, finding a teacher who will give them an eraser, a teacher who will forgive their missteps, a teacher who will listen to their whole story and guide them to wherever their future might be, college or elsewhere.
Imagine if there was a regular public school in every neighborhood, some with magnet programs, some with choice-integration bussing, and all with teacher salaries with public pension retirement plans that hold them in the profession years longer than their Teach-for-America counterparts promise.
Imagine if our school board put their vote of confidence in those students who don’t have involved parents instead of putting money into the pockets of charter-bond-selling millionaires and charter CEO salaries.
Imagine if school choice was just one word different: student choice.
Choose students. Not the broken promise and the disruption to our day, our lives, and our public education.