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Commentary: Why parent choice matters

Guest contributor | March 17, 2017

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By Hilda Torres

There’s a growing debate here in Southern California as to whether public charter schools are making positive impacts in our communities. As a single mother of a student attending Celerity Dyad Charter School, I am pleased with my decision to choose the school that fits best for my family. 

I know LAUSD schools well and the challenges that face students to remain in school. I attended Carver Middle School, Jordan High School for 9th grade and Jefferson High School for 10th grade. I dropped out after my sophomore year. I currently work full-time, but I am eagerly pursuing my GED.

I am a firm believer in public charter schools. In all honesty, I did not want my son sharing the same experience – forced to attend low-performing schools which were assigned to me.  I want my son to have a choice – the one I never had as a student.    

My son is an energetic fourth-grader who is very smart, friendly and outgoing. He has earned Honor Roll on a yearly basis.  My son loves the school, its teachers and looks forward to going every day.

With all that’s great about our school experience, I grow frustrated with selected comments in the media about the harms of public charter schools in our communities. Many of these criticisms are made by “concerned” parents whose children go to school in affluent neighborhoods.  They suggest that our public charter school is depleting funds from the overall school district and I should simply send my son to the failing neighborhood school here in South Los Angeles.  It’s a bit condescending to imply they know what’s best for my child.  

This is simply the wrong approach to our educational system.  My son should have the opportunity to attend good schools – and so should other children in our community. This right to choose should not be reserved for only those with privilege. I don’t appreciate these individuals choosing the best for their own and then denying that right to those who may have limited means or access.  

It’s a hard fact that public charter schools are a lifeline for thousands of Southern Californian families – including mine.  So why should our school be maligned in the media or a school board meeting?  Before public charter schools arrived, if your child was zoned for a terrible school and you couldn’t afford private school or to move, you were trapped. Thankfully, public charter schools such as Celerity Dyad Charter School were introduced as laboratories of innovation and parent collaboration.  Our school is successful because as parents, we demand it. 

I am not intimidated by comments espoused by the teachers union or a school district bureaucrat. If they view parent choice as a threat, then it’s a sign that our school is making a positive impact in our community.  Parents such as myself refuse to sit idly by while our children are forced to be assigned to unsafe neighborhood schools that aren’t working.  We as parents and community members can be – and will be – stronger voices for our children.

Hilda Torres is a single mother whose child attends Celerity Dyad Charter School in South Los Angeles.  She is currently serving her third year as PTO president.

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