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A Parent's Voice
Be An Advocate

MY Voice:
I bet you're like me...you would do anything to benefit your school! But do you understand the political and financial challenges facing charter schools in your district, the state, and the nation? I had very little or no understanding of these broader issues in my first several years as a charter school parent. I lived happily in the bubble of my school. If you are like me, then I encourage you to take the time to learn more about how you can have your voice heard as an advocate for your school, ultimately benefiting all school children.

Keys to Charter School Advocacy:

If you have children in a charter school, be sure you fulfill all the volunteer hours the school requests of you---then do more!

Beyond volunteer hours directly benefiting your school, begin learning all you can about the financial and political challenges facing your school and charter schools in your district and in the state.

Become comfortably familiar with the operation and structure of your own school. Attend internal board meetings, ask questions, read founding documents.

Spend time talking to your administrators and governing board members. They can tell you about the school's relationship with it's authorizer.

Know your district school board. Again, ask your administrator and governing board about the personalities on the authorizing board. Are they friendly and supportive of charter schools or not? Attend board meetings, especially when there is an agenda item important to charter schools. Remember, even if your children attend a charter school, you are a stakeholder in the district---your school is a district public school and you are a taxpayer.

When do your school district board elections take place? Take the time to become informed about the candidates. Ask them their position on choice in education. If there is a candidate whom you believe to be an advocate of charters, be sure to spread the word to others and help him or her get elected. VOTE! (For more on local district elections, see Candidates' Corner.)

Sign up for Colorado CAN, the advocacy network provided by the Colorado League of Charter Schools. You will receive informative weekly newsletters and action alerts, encouraging you to contact your elected officials when the need arises. It's important that our politicians hear from charter school parents and supporters. It truly makes a difference.

If it sounds like this takes a lot of time, truly it does not. So much you can do from home--researching on the internet and contacting others by email and phone. All of us spend more time than we want in committee meetings, charter school board meetings, etc. As for the district board meetings, don't worry. Make a commitment to attend one or two a year. As long as other parents are doing the same thing you are, then you can rest assured through a tag team effort, charter schools will be well represented in all important meetings.

One more note on advocacy---don't ever forget to thank, often, those who support our local charter schools. Perhaps you have a supportive superintendent in your district, friendly district board members, elected officials who consistently speak and act on behalf of choice in education. Don't forget to thank them. Let them know their efforts and support are appreciated.

If you need more information about any of these suggestions, or need help finding out more about the operation of your school district, please contact me at donnell@parentalchoiceineducation.com. You can learn more about your district and its board structure through its website. For a complete list of Colorado school districts and their websites, please visit the Colorado Department of Education.

Talk to Your Friends and Neighbors:

Have you ever heard someone say...
What's so special about a charter school?
Why don't you send your kids to the school down the street?
I hate charters because they drain money from our neighborhood school!

MY Voice:
Whenever I hear something like this I realize that I have an opportunity to spread a positive message about parental choice in education. How do I do that?

I happen to live in a successful school district. So I let people know how lucky I feel to live here and how proud I am of the district's success. However, my family has chosen a different route to educating our children that is a better fit for us---not necessarily a better school.

I talk about the things I like about my charter school, not the things I don't like about other district schools.

I enjoy taking the opportunity to dispel the myths that so many people seem to have regarding charter schools.

I try to keep the conversation positive and friendly. I don't want to alienate anyone by being defensive or hostile.

Do you have other experiences or information to share regarding advocacy and spreading the message of choice in education to friends? If so, join our Parent's Voice Community and share with us!

Education News Colorado

This site provides terrific local coverage of education news, policy, and politics. Sign up for their weekly Head First eNewsletter and their daily legislative updates (Capitol eNewsletter). Ed News also has a bill tracker that allows you to follow the progress of legislation.