As part of our ongoing efforts to close the equity gap between charter schools and traditional public schools, we invited charter parents, educators and advocates to participate in the 2018 Charters Make a Difference Initiative, giving them a chance to tell their charter success story at the capitol. Meet Dr. Yolanda Bloodsaw, who attended a K12 School-Aid Subcommittee Hearing and met with lawmakers face-to-face.
WHY WAS THIS IMPORTANT?
With lawmakers being so busy, they don't always have an opportunity to read email messages or talk to people who are truly in the trenches of educating our students every day, especially students in the inner city. Sharing my reality in-person allowed the lawmakers to experience education through a different lens.
While many of them may not be advocates of charter schools, simply hearing the heartache and traumatic reality for many students in the inner city helped them make a connection between their decisions and the real impact. In many instances, charter schools are the “neighborhood” schools or the only schools that many of our inner city students know.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN?
Through this initiative, I learned that members of the Senate are literally given a minute to cast their vote on a bill. When they hear the bell, they can be talking to you in mid-sentence, and they stop to politely excuse themselves, vote, and return to the conversation. From listening to the response of one of the Senators on the topic of the Regional Enhancement Bill, it appeared that he casted a "no" vote because he didn't have a personal connection or vested interested in charter schools, and could have voted either way. Being able to personally share my story with this Senator gave me hope that he will at least think twice the next time a charter school issue is up for a vote.
HOW DID YOU MAKE A LASTING IMPACT?
I feel that this initiative made a lasting impression to legislators who were legitimately interested in answering questions from those of us who are in the trenches, living and breathing the everyday reality of educating inner city students. For example, I was able to talk with legislators about the Third Grade Reading Bill. I mentioned that most inner city students don't have the same resources as their suburban counterparts, and this bill could negatively impact them with more compliance and testing guidelines, leading to destruction for students with limited resources, and potentially linking them to the school-to-prison pipeline. This was a way to directly engage my legislators to have a different perspective on this issue.
WHO SHOULD GET INVOLVED WITH THE SCHOOL-AID BUDGET?
I think all Charter supporters should have the experience of coming to the capitol and meeting with lawmakers face-to-face. Without the voice of charter supporters, charter schools will remain invisible and off the radar of our legislators, who hold the future of charter schools in the palm of their hands.
By giving charter supporters a presence in Lansing, we can help our legislators better understand how important it is to fund ALL students equally, no matter where they choose to learn.
Dr. Yolanda Bloodsaw serves as Superintendent at Old Redford Academy in Detroit, Michigan.