By Beth Purcell
As the final school bells have rung signaling the end of another school year, my time as PublicSchoolOptions.org’s national president is drawing to a close.
For the last seven years, I have been deeply involved in PSO, witnessing great victories within the school choice movement peppered with a few disappointing defeats. I don’t mind telling you that I stumbled into advocacy completely by chance. In the spring of 2009, as my two children were wrapping up their first year in a South Carolina state-wide virtual school, I knew I could not let this option fade from my state’s menu of public school choices. I knew that I selfishly had to do all I could to keep virtual education alive for my children.
As I began leading this charge in my state, I quickly realized that the push for educational options was far bigger than just my little family. Thousands across our country have found magic for their children through schools of choice. For many, school choice has provided a last-resort-option for students, and for others, it has opened grand new doors to opportunity. As charter school wait lists continue to grow across the nation, more parents are engaging in advocacy. As equitable funding is debated and school access is capped, parents are speaking out. And the exciting part is that more legislators and state leaders are listening!
Telling my story has been the single, most impactful tool in my fight for educational options. I am the expert when it comes to my two children. Like many siblings, they are completely opposite and have completely different learning needs. No legislator, no state leader, no school staff will ever care for them like I do. If our country truly seeks education reform then we must provide parents with educational options and trust them to choose the appropriate learning environment to meet educational needs. I trust parents!
I am so honored to have been part of the PSO team that has pushed the school choice needle a little more toward our goal – All families should have access to public school options that best serve their children’s learning needs. I believe profoundly in the mission of PSO, and I have observed, first-hand, the power of parents to move state legislators. I have seen the fear in parents’ eyes when schools have been threatened, and I have experience the joy of students when schools have been saved. I am so very proud of the achievements of PSO and know that there are many more successes on the horizon.
While my role as President of PublicSchoolOptions.org is ending, my involvement in school choice advocacy is not! Because of educational options, my learning-challenged daughter has a bright future that my husband and I never dreamed possible. Because of school options, my advanced-learner son has found his passion and educational challenge. School choice changed the course of life for my children and opened doors for each of them that otherwise would have remained locked. Why shouldn’t every child have that opportunity?
Summer routines are kicking in, and families are enjoying some time to rejuvenate before another school year begins. In a few short weeks, school supplies will replace pool toys on the store shelves. It won’t be long before students return to class and legislators are back in session. Once again, parents will gather at state capitols across the country to tell their stories and advocate for their right to educational choice. My term as PSO president may be over, but I will be there…standing with others as a school choice supporter and as a mom with a story to tell.
See ya around campus!