Understanding the educational landscape is critical for Memphis parents


Every day when I drop my daughter off at school I am reminded of my decision to exercise my parental choice of where my child is educated. As a single mom I have sole responsibility of ensuring that my daughter not only gets to school on time, with a full stomach from a healthy breakfast, clean clothes, and homework done, I also have to ensure that where she is going is ready to receive her, teach her, and help me help her realize her potential through receiving a high-quality education. In order to do that we need to have high-quality educational options available for our children. Once they are available, as parents, we need to know what they are and how to access them. That’s where this blog really starts.

As the Deputy Director for the Tennessee Black Alliance for Educational Options (TN BAEO), I was tasked with mobilizing parents mainly in Memphis through meetings and community outreach to help teach them about the different public school options that were available for their children, including Shelby County public schools and the Achievement School District. I worked with low-income and working class Black families as the mission of TN BAEO called for. And as a Black woman, I’d like to believe through that work we not only mobilized parents, but we also helped change the trajectory of their children’s lives. I remember talking to a group of parents about what the bottom 5% of schools in Memphis means for them and how they were going to be affected. It saddened me to know that most of them didn’t even know their children were attending a “failing” school. I spent a lot of time with parents explaining the differences between traditional public schools and public charter schools. I taught them how to become advocates for their children and demand access to high-quality educational options. Most importantly, I helped them understand the educational landscape in Memphis and how it’s critical to their children’s future.

Today there are a myriad of educational events happening in our city, state, and country that affect the parents of Memphis. Memphis will welcome a new charter school this fall – Green Dot Public Charter High School. Nashville will also receive a new charter school in the fall of 2018. Both schools were approved by the State Board of Education – our newest school district. Tennessee is the second state in the country to act as a separate school district.

We will soon have a new U.S. Secretary of Education who is a school choice supporter. While Betsy DeVos has received feedback from both supporters and opponents, it’s important that parents are tuned into the conversations about education on the federal level so they can understand and know how national decisions will affect them locally. It’s not enough to stay cocooned in your safety net in your local community. Challenge the status quo there but also challenge it statewide and nationally, if you’re not happy with the direction in which any of the three are going. Understand that it is your right and responsibility to be engaged in the process when decisions are being made about how well and where your child will have the opportunity to be educated. It doesn’t do us any good if we’re not connected to the issues and to each other.

So, I’m happy for an outlet like this blog. It will help connect us as parents. Teach and learn from each other about educational topics that are critical to our community. I look forward to going on this journey with you.