As a widow with children who attend public school, I know first-hand how difficult it is to physically get your child to a quality public school. I have five boys, four of them at different grade levels and schools. It is impossible to get them to their destinations when two have school at the same time. This is a reality for many parents.
Our current public education transportation system was created during an era where the majority of students attended their neighborhood school. Luckily, thanks to open enrollment and a robust charter school system, parents are making the wise choice to leave failing public schools in order to give their child access to a great education. That is what I have done. It hasn’t been easy, but my kids deserve a chance to reach their full potential.
I am disappointed in the opposition by so-called education advocates and the egregious rhetoric from people who do not understand the real challenges public school parents are facing. I testified recently at the Arizona Legislature, explaining why the current transportation model does not work for all families and why I am excited about the proposed modernization bill. But rather than learn more about how the system is failing many families and discuss ways to pilot new programs and solutions, myself and others were attacked – for sharing our story – by individuals and policymakers who are content with maintaining the status quo and keeping kids trapped in failing schools.
Senate Bill 1280 is not a complicated bill, nor should it be controversial. Contrary to the false narrative of opponents, parents would not be “paid to take their kids to school.” It simply creates a grant program for parents who cannot utilize the traditional public education transportation system because either no direct or safe route exists or there is no option to physically get our kids to their public school. Not to mention the difficulty of parents transporting multiple kids of different ages to different level schools. In order to improve a broken system, other opportunities must be given to learn what works best. To ignore this bill is to say, “Let’s not try to improve.” This bill is a no-brainer.
It also won’t create logistical nightmares for school drop-off or pick–up as was suggested. Most schools already have an incredibly efficient system for parents to drop off their kids, because believe it or not many parents are already driving their kids to and from school or utilizing neighborhood carpools due to lack of adequate transportation options. All of these proposals for transportation are completely optional for interested public schools, and this bill does not replace all yellow school buses with carpooling. Those pushing this narrative are grasping at straws and are ignoring the goal of this bill to provide more efficient, effective, and safe routes for public school kids.
So what is the motive behind this bill? It is to help struggling parents like me who have felt abandoned while we try to do what is best for our children and to empower others to finally have public school options – whether across their existing district or another public model. The next time lawmakers want to know how certain bills would impact students and families, I suggest they reach out to real parents and not their union allies.
Querida Walker is a Phoenix mother.