In 2018, I wrote an article for Raising Arizona Kids Magazine titled “Six Families, Six Different Approaches to School Choice.”
It was the story of our family and five others who all have chosen different educational opportunities for our children. I was compelled to tell the story of how my neighbor friends and I share similar values and the same ZIP code.
However, we have uniquely chosen to educate our sons and daughters through various public, charter, and private school options here in Arizona.
I had no idea when I wrote the piece that school choice was a controversial topic. I have always believed it beneficial that Arizonans can choose where they want to educate their children based on their needs and desires.
My husband, Keith, and I have chosen our local public Scottsdale schools to educate our six children. I am currently running for a seat on our local Scottsdale Unified Governing Board because I believe strong communities have strong public schools. Families shouldn’t have to look elsewhere for the rigorous academics and well-rounded extracurricular experiences they desire for their students.
Now the question is: Why are organizations spending time and resources fighting educational choice instead of working to strengthen our public schools so that they are our community’s number one pick for educating our local children?
Our two youngest sons have always been eligible for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts since they were adopted from Arizona’s foster care system. As their parents, we are able to take their state educational dollars and educate them how we see fit. Fortunately, we have not needed to utilize an ESA because we have found the schools in our community to be a good fit for each of our children individually and for us as a family too.
While my family has had a positive experience, the reality is that many of our community members are choosing other education options over our local public schools.
The Scottsdale Unified governing board has an obligation to get to the bottom of why so many families have left our district in recent years and then work to bring them back. Many public school districts around the Valley are constantly collecting feedback from parents and staff to learn what they need to do to help students succeed and keep families happy. What is stopping Scottsdale Unified from doing the same?
This past school year, SUSD approved $156,000 to be spent on social media marketing and branding to attract families to enroll their children in our local public schools via digital platforms. Yet, if our district leaders actually took the time to listen to the needs of students and parents, and then worked diligently toward fulfilling their desires, we wouldn’t have to worry about wasting taxpayer dollars on a social media campaign. Nor would we have to worry about families opting for ESAs and leaving our public schools for other educational options.
It’s not the Facebook posts that are going to make parents choose to educate their students in our Scottsdale public schools. To strengthen our public schools, we need to prioritize academics, support our hard-working teachers, and ensure that money is invested in our classrooms, not unnecessary overhead.
Now that ESAs will soon be available to all Arizona K-12 students, it’s time that we elect school board members that are serious about listening to the community and making our public schools the number option for Scottsdale families.