Public school isn’t the best fit for every student.
I never thought I would feel this way.
Let me give you a little background to explain. I was raised by public educators. My Father was a biology teacher for 30 years. He was also the union president for two terms. My Mother was a special education aid. Two of my siblings have degrees in education. We are a family of teachers.
I used to think that families that chose charter, private or home schools were doing their children a disservice. I was wrong.
This change of heart did not happen overnight. It has been years in the making through my family’s struggle to find a school my children could thrive in.
We started out in Public school. It became apparent by 1st grade that my student was struggling. I often got emails and calls from the school. His teachers were great. They did the best they could. He just wasn’t doing well. We sought extra support from behavioral specialists and even an Occupational therapist. After a few rough 504 meetings* and countless breakdowns from my son, we finally decided public school wasn’t a good fit.
We decided to enroll him in a charter school. It felt like I got my son back. He was happy and thriving. His teacher was wonderful and went above and beyond to help him find a love of learning again. Things were great for a few years until the homework and course load became overwhelming. The school was unwilling to make the accommodations he needed. After his last 504 meeting we were walking out to the car and my son said, “that was rough.” I felt sick to my stomach. Why was I doing this to him? Why was I trying so hard to make him fit into a mold he simply didn’t fit into? I felt like I was out of options. I decided to give public school another try. He seemed to do well in public school again. He was enrolled for a few months when schools were locked down because of COVID.
Distance learning was the worst. All three of my children struggled academically, socially and emotionally. I felt helpless as I watched them deteriorate. I did my best to work with their teachers. They were great in finding creative things to try to help them. It just wasn’t working. I pulled my kids from public school that October after FUSD refused to open in spite of the begging and pleading of parents along with a plethora of statistics showing it was safe to open.
I enrolled my kids in a prenda micro school. It took some time but my children were able to make up their learning loss. They were able to go to school in person the entire year FUSD kept its doors closed. Prenda was great and we did it for two years. We learned their teachers would not be returning the following school year so once again we were left wondering what to do.
We felt like we were out of options. We questioned if Flagstaff was still a place we wanted to raise our children. It didn’t feel family friendly anymore. I am so grateful to a friend for suggesting I apply for the Empowerment Scholarship Account program (ESA). Their applications were approved since they all have 504 plans.
ESA has allowed our children to attend Flagstaff Christian School. It has been by far the best fit for our children. They don’t have meltdowns before school and they are happy when I pick them up. Finding a school that is a good fit for our family has had a huge impact on our quality of life.
Universal ESA is what is best for Arizona students. Public and Charter schools aren’t the best fit for every student. My children have thrived in smaller class sizes. ESA will ease the burden Public school teachers currently face without reducing the Public school budget. They will receive the same amount of funding with less students. It is a win win for everyone.
Giving parents more education options also encourages schools to listen to parents rights. I doubt FUSD would have remained closed for an entire year if all Flagstaff students had the option to attend the only schools that were open for in person learning, private schools.
FUSD is asking Flagstaff taxpayers to approve a $100 million bond. They are doing so because they feel it is needed to best meet the needs of students and staff. I ask those who oppose Universal ESA to please give parents the same opportunity for their children. Stop opposing Universal ESA. There is no evidence it harms public school funds. There are however credible sources which illustrate how universal ESA will benefit Public schools and students who need a non typical approach to education.
Please do your research before signing anything from Save Our Schools (SOS). They have spread misinformation and lied to Arizona residents in an effort to overturn Universal ESA.
Teachers, please do not take it personally if a parent decides to choose an alternative learning method. We didn’t leave because of bad teachers. We stayed as long as we could because we had amazing teachers that were trying their hardest. It is impossible for ANY school to meet the needs of every type of student. That is why we NEED school choice.
By Brielle Kennington
* A 504 plan is a blueprint for how the school will support a student with a disability and remove barriers to learning.