Dippel: Ending families’ wait for a better future in education
Tens of thousands of lives - waiting. Waiting to achieve their hopes and dreams. Waiting for a ticket to an independent and productive future, one that starts with a first-class education today.
At Families Empowered, our families are waiting for a school choice opportunity that will better meet their needs. These are the families left on a waitlist, by charter schools that are unable to provide a seat to even one more student. This waiting list grows and grows - a total of 26,250 in Houston alone who in the last academic year sought to attend, but could not enroll in, one of the charter school options in and around greater Houston.
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For each child who finds a seat in a public charter school, six more are placed on a waiting list.
Facing uncertainty on a waiting list is an agonizing reality for too many parents and students. It underlines the progress of the school choice movement, which is bringing options to parents who need them. Parents have recognized the opportunity that comes from school choice. And they continue to demand more of it across Houston.
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School choice takes many forms - all designed to give parents more quality options. Magnet schools provide specialized programs in areas like science or the arts. Charter schools are publicly funded schools that have more flexibility than traditional district schools. Home schooling and online education provide curricular options outside the classroom. And private schools, many of which give scholarships or financial aid, offer choices outside the public setting.
Houston’s charter school waiting list illustrates the nearly insatiable demand for more school options, which far outstrip the available supply. But it also demonstrates the need to expand school choice to every parent and every child, since no parent should face the torture that comes with seeing their child trapped in a dysfunctional school or one that does not meet that child’s needs.
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Thankfully, Families Empowered works to do just that - we empower parents to engage in the market place of schools. Helping parents make sense of and navigate their choices, stand up for their children and demand that their desire for more school choice be heard. We serve and support parents like Rosezina Williams, a Houston mother whose children were on a charter school waiting list. As she said, “My son Sayvion and daughter Ashley are my breath, and I knew they were not in the right environment, not getting the education and attention they deserve. My children were in turmoil, and I felt defeated.”
Thankfully, Rosezina Williams’ two children ended up getting off the waiting lists and into quality schools they enjoy. Having seen the benefits of parental empowerment on her children, Rosezina has raised her voice to help other parents like her, advocating to legislators and others about the benefits of school choice, and pushing to expand access to school choice to every parent and every child.
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This Jan. 21-27, families just like Rosezina and her children will gather at more than 30,000 events nationwide to celebrate National School Choice Week. These events show that we are stronger together; parents, teachers, school leaders, and community leaders will come together to say YES to families having more individualized school options to choose from.
This National School Choice Week, let’s work to bring that hope to all families - especially those in our area who have spent years trapped on school waiting lists. Let’s expand school choice, across Texas and across our country, to give the next generation a better and brighter future.
Dippel is the founder and executive director of Families Empowered, which seeks to connect the more than 40,000 low- and middle-income families on charter school waitlists with schools.