Tuesday, July 28, 2015 at 10:18AM
The Rebel Housewife Goes to Washington DC
by Sherri Caldwell, Parent Advocate
Several months ago, I was invited to Washington, D.C. in July for a “parent advocacy training boot camp”. As an active parent and freelance journalist often reporting on civic and education issues, I have long been involved in our traditional public schools (Atlanta Public Schools). I also know intimately the desperate search for public school options, including private and virtual schools, when our neighborhood public schools did not work for our youngest child.
I had no idea what to expect from this adventure, and 2015 has been such a crazy-busy summer, with our daughter’s high school graduation; Navy son visiting from Guam for three short weeks on leave; various college summer programs, school competitions and travel; two summer birthdays; Freshman Orientation & Registration--figuring out how to pay for the first year of college (much less the next three or four); and a big cross-town move... I never had a minute to think about it, worry about it, research or prepare. I just got on the plane--
As it turned out, PublicSchoolOptions.org BOOT CAMP 2015 National Parent Advocacy Conference was a life-changing, two-and-a-half-day, whirlwind event, jam-packed with meeting new people, learning new things, finding my voice, and advocating -- in Washington, D.C.! on Capitol Hill! In my Representatives’ and Senators’ offices! -- for my child and others, for education reform, and PublicSchoolOptions.org.
PublicSchoolOptions.org is an alliance of parents that supports and defends parents’ rights to access the best public school options for their children. The Coalition supports the creation of public school options, including charter schools, online schools, magnet schools, open enrollment policies and other innovative education programs. Additionally, we advocate for free and equal access without restrictions to these public schools for all children.
PSO BOOT CAMP was the adventure of a lifetime. After and alongside power networking with parents and teachers from all over the country, we enjoyed (survived?!) a full day of advocacy training Monday on lobbying and the issues, prior to spending Tuesday morning on The Hill. Capitol Hill. (I still can’t quite believe I was there!)
Tuesday began with a public rally on the Upper Senate Park, in the midst of Washington’s most iconic buildings. On Capitol Hill. School Choice champions and supporters spoke to the crowd and the cameras, while more than one hundred parents from thirty states rallied in bright red #ITrustParents tshirts, with signs, stickers, and other SWAG.
The Georgia Coalition (five of us) had to leave the rally early to make our first appointment in Representative John Lewis’s (D-GA) office, which was... AMAZING.
[Note: The politics of ESEA Re-Authorization (a.k.a. “No Child Left Behind”) is complicated, and there is a very helpful article here. I found myself a Blue Lady (Democrat) in a contingent of Red (Republicans), which was fine, after a minor crisis in ideology. Education is a child-centered issue, and that is primary, although there are some differences in approach and detail. Nevertheless, we were able to visit both Democrats and Republicans as a bi-partisan coalition, which was very effective.]
Although we were scheduled to meet with “Staffers” in the legislative offices, Representative Lewis walked in while we were meeting around a table in his small antechamber. For many reasons, I think John Lewis is a living national treasure, and I was in awe. He took a picture with us -- one of the most extraordinary events of my life:
From Congressman Lewis’s office (excellent meeting), we visited Representative David Scott’s (D-GA) office, and met with his Education Staffer. (The meeting was not as excellent, but we held our own.) We also visited Senator David Perdue’s (R-GA) office, but Senator Perdue already supports the Senate version of the School Choice Bill, so it was more of a check-in, not a formal meeting. (Sen. Perdue was not there.)
And that was it. A big luncheon, additional networking and good-byes, and we were done. My colleague and I went on a quick visit to Arlington National Cemetery, and Uber-ed our way back to the airport in time for our flight home to Atlanta, back to Real Life.
For more about The Adventure -- what I said & why I was there -- click on:
TRH Goes To DC - Part Two.