There are three things I really wish I knew before starting PALs in 2007.
1. People really will hate me, and I will not care.
As a teacher I was one of the few that worked beyond my union negotiated contract. I stayed late, arrive early, and used recess to help kids. Others did not like this. I got the “talking to” about working to my contract.
As a parent I watched my son and his classmates as they were left behind. I was the parent in the PTA meetings asking why teachers were not teaching to the standards. I was told I was complaining too much and, “It’s okay if your child has one bad year.” They did not like my answer.
When my child was in 4th grade his teachers went on strike. They wanted more money during the great recession. This led to increased class sizes a program loss for students. I was a strike-sub or SCAB as I was called at my child’s school. Kids should not be used a pawns.
I helped start a charter school in my community. Who knew trying to start a different public school option for kids would bring out the worst in some people?
As PALs continues to grow, we have more members and volunteers that work to help make students the focus in education.
All the above (and so much more) has prompted some to hate, but I call it motivation. <insert: “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift> Haters gonna hate. We have to keep fighting because it is the right thing to do for ALL kids in California.
2. The status quo of education or teachers’ unions will fight against parents.
Take a moment to watch any California Assembly or Senate Education hearing. Any one of them. Check out the hearing from the Assembly Education Hearing. You will see the same organizations step up and oppose student-focused legislation. It is usually California Teachers Association and California Federation of Teachers. They have that right to speak up for their due-paying members. Let’s just make sure we get one thing clear: the teachers unions collect dues to support the interest of their members. Again, they have the right to support their members. Students, however, do not pay union dues.
Teachers have their unions.
Students have their parents.
Parents have rights, too. We can and must stand up and use our voices for children who do not pay union dues.
- We must take time to vote for student-focused leaders because our children cannot vote.
- We must hold all decision-makers accountable for their actions, votes and transparency.
- We must demand school districts are accountable toward student growth and transparent with our tax dollars.
YES. This will take time and work. You may have to record your favorite reality t.v. shows or take a pass on Bunko or Taco Tuesday sometimes, but our children are worth the effort. I can assure you, the other side, is doing the same thing, but not necessarily in your child’s favor. If you do not step up for your child, who will?
3. Children are not the priority in education.
As much as our kids are the moon of our own existence, they are not the top priority in the public education system. Sure the same leaders that vote against your kids’ interest will say kids are the priority, but actions or lack of action are the evidence that tell a different story.
I was naive when I first started PAL. I thought if I spoke to decision makers with facts and remind them they were elected to support our kids too they will surely, surely make children the priority in their votes. Nope. Sadly, most decision makers are beholden to special interests that fund their campaigns. The status quo send lobbyist to speak at hearings to remind our leaders of this fact.
What are we, as parents, supposed to do with this?
First, we need to rally and band together. That means support one another and support our choices for our kids’ education:
- traditional public school;
- public charter school;
- home school;
- magnet school;
- language immersion school or,
- online schools.
The status quo fights against choices in education. That is why we need to support one another and our choices we have the right to make for our kids.
Second, like I mentioned above, you will need to roll up your sleeves and do some work to ensure our kids are the priority in education.
- Go to a school board meeting with friends or PALs
- Watch the Assembly and Senate Education Hearings once a week (you see firsthand how the leaders vote and why)
- Contact your legislator and let them know how you want them to vote for a bill. “How to Contact Your Legislator” is on the PAL website.
- Please ask others to become one of our PALs. There are not many organizations that focus on educating parents on education.
- Take action: Follow who is running for office at the local and state level. Make sure you see who funds their campaigns. This will tell you if they are student focused or not.
- Ask questions, stir the pot, don’t take “No” for an answer, tell others, talk to friends, share on social media what is happening in education. Be bold.
- Do something. Do not assume your child is getting a quality education. California is ranked 46th in the nation in student achievement. This means there are children failing in EVERY zip code.
Finally, knowing these things sooner probably would have helped me understand my frustration and drive to work even harder. So, as I reflect on where I started, it makes me so proud of where we are now. It also reminds me of how far we have to go to ensure students are the first priority in education.
I wish I knew back in 2007 that in the years I have been fighting for students, there would be very little change with extremely hard and a constant uphill battles. Every battle won or lost for our children is worth it. Let’s work together, stay strong and be bold. Change is coming because EVERY child deserves a high quality education with a high quality teacher every year.