“Our Children, Our Choice, Can’t Silence Our Voice”
Group of Idaho parents participate in rally against new proposed CSP regulations
by Ashley Cotton and Lindsay Trombly
Like many [Chicano, LantinX] children who grew up in rural Texas during the 70’s and 80’s, my mother is the daughter of Mexican immigrants who came to the United States in hopes of providing better opportunities for their family. She spent most of her childhood summers working in the Pecan fields and cleaning houses to provide extra wages for my grandparents. From a young age, she understood that education was a pathway to unlock opportunities that were normally hindered by socioeconomic status.
She and my father were determined to provide the best possible opportunities for my brother and I, and enrolled us in an international public charter school. Since charter schools are public, socioeconomic status and zip code are not barriers to entry. Through my charter school education, I became fluent in English, Spanish, and Russian by the age of 10, and trained in classical ballet. This then propelled me to attend college, where I became a McNair Scholar, and earned a Master’s Degree in Political Science.
My story is not uncommon and is similar to many of the charter school parents and students who attended the rally.
Charter schools are an important part of the public education system because they allow underrepresented children who live in lower income districts to obtain a high-quality education likely not afforded to them in their districts. This is not just a problem in Idaho, this is a problem across the nation.
My personal experience prepared me to be an advocate for public charter schools so I can support Bluum and their mission in my current role.
ADVOCATING FOR PARENT CHOICE
Washington DC is 2,381 miles away from Boise, Idaho. This group of Idaho parents went the distance to join over 1,000 advocates and parents from various other states such as New Mexico, Texas, California, and many more to advocate for their children and their choice in education. Their message for the United States Department of Education (USDOE) is to rethink the implementation of new proposed regulations for the Charter Schools Program grant (CSP). They demonstrated in front of the USDOE’s office, rallied in front of the White House at Lafayette Park, and spoke with Congressman Russ Fulcher’s Legislative Director to discuss education in Idaho. But regardless of location, the passion and commitment from the charter community was not unheard.
In various parts of the US, the CSP grant is an important source of startup, expansion, or replication funding for high-quality charter schools to be available to more students. Since charter schools in Idaho are funded differently that traditional district schools, these funds are especially important, and will continue to be as the state continues its rapid population growth.
District schools can access bond or levy dollars to get funding needed to expand their school to serve additional students. But, charter schools can’t access these funds, which results in a difference of about $761.00 less per student. Take Idaho for example – in Bluum’s portfolio of schools, 22 earned funding through the CSP Grant. This helps high-quality charter schools get a running start in being able to serve growing communities quicker and better-adapted to their specific needs. Here’s the thing about the CSP Grant – this money isn’t free. Schools go through a competitive application process in order to be approved for the funds, and are held accountable for following through on their responsibility to serve students to the very best of their ability.
Four Bluum portfolio schools who earned CSP funding, two of which are rural, were represented by parents at the rally: Fernwaters Charter School, Future Public School, Gem Innovation Schools, and Treasure Valley Classical Academy (TVCA).
With their experiences combined, they know the importance of their child (ren’s) education and value their parental choice.
One parent, Ashley Jackson has two kids attending Future Public School in Garden City. She specifically decided to enroll her sixth grader, Braxton, so he could learn science and math in a more thoughtful way. But he’s blossomed way beyond that – he’s participated in the school play, Battle for the Books, and is running for class president.
Jackson addressed the crowd of about 1,000 advocates in the middle of Lafayette Park. “Future Public School is not just a school, it is community, it’s a foundation by which young people are shaped into young, caring citizens eager to learn and explore. It’s a place where magic happens; every child across the country deserves to experience that same magic, without our government creating barriers,” Jackson said. “Every child should have the opportunity to be supported encouraged and embraced in any setting that works best for them.”
But it isn’t just charter schools in the heart of the Boise area that have been making a positive mark on students and families — it’s in the rural areas as well.
Head of PTO and mother to a student at Treasure Valley Classical Academy, Pam Aubrey said this grant really helps their school in rural Fruitland thrive.
“In our rural areas, we don’t have many options for other schools, we have the public school and that’s usually it in our small towns. So, to have a charter school — no matter what their area of focus is — it usually just opens it up more smaller class sizes. It takes a burden off of those traditional public schools, and now we have those options,” Aubrey said.
It was critical to have a diversity of state representatives – from urban charter schools to rural charter schools – at this event. Debbie Veney, Senior Vice President of Communications and Marketing for the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, was in attendance and thrilled to have Idaho parents in the crowd.
“I am so pleased to have parents here from Idaho, because that is an area of the country that is doing so much innovation in charter schools, and a lot of people aren’t aware of how much is happening,” Veney said.
Check out Bluum’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds for more coverage of the event.
Fernwaters Charter School, Future Public School, Gem Innovation Schools, and Treasure Valley Classical Academy have received grant support from Idaho’s Communities of Excellence federal Charter Schools Program grant.