By Josefina Vargas
“Es mi hijo, yo elijo!” – “It’s my child, I choose!” was what hundreds of parents enthusiastically chanted outside the LAUSD headquarters on the morning of September 11. We were there to oppose a resolution that Mr. Steve Zimmer, a school board member, plans to implement that would hurt the opening of any future charter schools. Parents showed up by the bus loads and filled the auditorium and the streets outside the school board.
I attended this meeting to represent my daughter’s charter school, Los Angeles Leadership Primary Academy, located in Lincoln Heights. We were called to action by the school and by The Families that Can organization that our presence was very important at this meeting. We were told that Mr. Zimmer wanted to limit our choice of schools.
It was my hope to speak at this meeting on behalf of my support of the charter school system, but wasn’t able to because the spots were filled. I wanted to relay the following message which showed why I was in favor of charter schools.
I have a daughter who just started kindergarten six weeks ago, so I myself am a new charter parent. I was there to tell the great outcome that my youngest sister Ruth Galaviz had while attending two charter schools. Ruth attended KIPP LA Prep in the 5th grade and went on to attend Los Angeles Leadership Academy High School. The continued support and guidance that she received from the staff at these schools made it possible for Ruth to excel academically and go places that would have not been easily accessible to her if she would have gone to the traditional middle school and high school. How many girls from our community can say that they spent their junior year of high school studying in Vietnam on a full scholarship? Not only that, she has been to New York, Washington D.C. and Utah because of her involvement at these schools.
Ruth is the first and only, of a family of four, to have attended a university right out of high school. Three weeks ago she started her freshman year at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, where she’s majoring in Environmental Studies. Ruth was lucky enough to get to choose what school she wanted to attend and received a full scholarship.
It is this experience that made me choose a charter school for my daughter.
When I hear that Mr. Zimmer wants to halt the opening of any further charter schools it upsets me. A decision that big should be put to a vote by the parents of the LAUSD since it ultimately affects us and our children. As I hear, Mr. Zimmer represents an affluent part of L.A [Zimmer's school board district includes Brentwood and Pacific Palisades as well as East Hollywood and Hollywood]. that probably doesn’t have much of a burden when it comes to the quality of education that the kids there receive. So Mr. Zimmer, if your constituents have a top notch education, why don’t you want our kids to have the same opportunity?
I’m hoping that the parent turn out may have changed Mr. Zimmer’s mind. One thing for sure is that we will be at the school board in October to hear the outcome of this resolution. Though I agree that charter schools have been popping up all over the city, I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing. I just think that as parents we need to make a diligent decision when we choose what school we want our kids to attend. That’s the beauty of charter schools–we have a choice. We are no longer restricted to just sending them to the nearest assigned school.
I’m a 33 year old mother of a 5 year-old girl. I was born and still reside in Lincoln Heights. I’ve been married for 10 years. I’m a civil service employee. I only have this one child and believe that her future success relies on my personal involvement with school issues and being the best parent I can be.
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