School Shopping...Literally!

The school year is wrapping up. Children will say their goodbyes to classmates and teachers and hopefully, excitedly embrace about 8-weeks of a summer break that gladly awaits them. Despite the ease of summer breaks, many parents, believe it or not, spend their summers looking for options. Not summer camp options, but school options. Parents are faced with the question; "where do I send my children next school year?" If the decision hasn't already been made, then the summer becomes additional time for parents to shop around anxiously looking for the best option for their students.

For parents like me, you start this "shopping for options" long before the current school year ends and if you're lucky, you're done shopping by the close of the current school year. But for some parents, shopping doesn't even begin until the current school year ends. Like sometimes the complexities of real shopping reveal, waiting this late in the game is sometimes quite frustrating because the good sales have ended and the better slots/spaces in schools have filled.

The challenge for some families is that they don't know where to even begin the "school shopping" process. It is critical for parents to know what options are available, how to access those options and what are the best options for children based on a child's individual learning needs.

I attended the American Federation for Children (AFC) Policy Summit where the main topic of discussion was children. To kick off AFC's Policy Summit this year, the organization embarked upon its first ever grassroots advocacy training for its staff and partner agencies. The five-hour workshop included various pieces of advocacy work such as: an overview of the current educational landscape, the recruitment of advocates, relationship building, cultivation of advocates, media training and a variety of other topics that aligns directly with the work happening to ensure quality options are available for parents to indeed have access to. AFC is just one of many organizations dedicated to ensuring that students have access to high-quality educational options. Most recently, AFC added the grassroots portion to the work they do throughout the country by individually growing out their grassroots teams in the states. Tennessee is included in the states in which AFC does both high level and ground level work around parent engagement, educational advocacy, and school choice.

I was indeed humbled by the opportunity to share with AFC as it moves forward in their efforts for all students and being quite familiar with the work having worked for the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) in a similar capacity as the work AFC is now spearheading as well, I am aware of the challenge of "shopping for options" and even having options. Even with the intense and aggressive efforts of organizations like AFC and BAEO, there is still much work to be done on advocacy, school choice, parent choice and ensuring educational equity for all students.

As a mom, I too have the fortunate, yet often frustrating privilege of shopping. However, I do strongly encourage parents to do their best shopping when it comes to selecting the appropriate learning environment for students. From one parent to another, the selection does matter and matters greatly. For parents who may not know where to begin, there is help out there. AFC has a Tennessee representative that works tirelessly with parents with all of this. Our representative is Carra Powell. I know Carra personally. I don't want parents to feel stressed and alone. There is help. And it's helpful to have someone to help maneuver through it all. We all know shopping can be tough. And this manner of shopping is probably one of the most impactful you'll ever do as a parent. The time, energy, and effort are well worth it. Your child(ren) will thank you. Carra can be reached at 901.359.9188 or by email: cpowell@federationforchildren.org


Enjoy your summer school shopping parents!