By Deloyce Dhoruba
After my husband and I completed military service, we moved our family to Georgia from Fort Richardson, Alaska. As service members we have seen public school systems all over the U.S. and in other countries as well. I grew up in Chicago and my husband in New Jersey and coming to Georgia, we were very disturbed about what we saw when it came to education.
My husband and I are middle class. We both work, we spend time in our children’s classrooms, and we always took the time to volunteer at their schools. We have had two children in local public schools. Our 10-year-old daughter was part of the FOCUS Program for gifted students; our 17-year-old son is on average a B-grade level student. Both are well-rounded students with no disciplinary issues and they participate in athletics.
In our experience with the local public school system, we found overcrowded classrooms, kids in trailers behind the schools, many teachers did not have control, discipline was definitely a problem, and the lack of security in the schools did not help. Dropout rates are extremely high.
As parents we do everything we can to keep our children focused on education, and out of trouble. We moved our son to a private high school when we felt the local public high school was not an option for us. Later we moved him to a new public high school in our county after the General Assembly passed an expanded school choice bill. He was able to attend a school with smaller class sizes; we were willing to provide transportation to help ensure his success.
My daughter attends one of the two all-girls charter schools in Georgia. She maintains straight A’s, plays soccer, and demonstrates the abilities to be successful. Before she could succeed in a public charter school we had a less successful experience in a traditional public school.
In the first grade we had to fight to get our daughter tested to move her to a grade above her level. When she joined the pubic school “gifted program” her classroom day consisted of part-time “gifted” courses, then it was back to overcrowded classes. We felt like her teachers were clearly overwhelmed. Even with our parental involvement this was still a chaotic environment.
Fortunately, we were able to locate a full-time gifted program in another public school where she was surrounded by gifted students. She excelled, but after she completed fifth grade, our only option was to return to the local public middle school. Thankfully a public charter school that is located in our county was an option and she was accepted.
Her new charter school offers a longer school day (two math classes and two English classes), and Saturday classes to help those who require additional assistance. There is focus on the importance of discipline, education, goal setting, priorities, and becoming a productive member of society. Parents are REQUIRED to participate in learning and volunteer. Many girls commute over 20 miles to get there!
Why are we fighting competition? Why must we make it so hard for parents to educate and give their children successful opportunities? Look at the drop-out rates in the local schools; if public schools were doing their jobs children would not be suffering. Our teachers have to go into their own pockets to fund things their children need in public school classrooms.
We are far behind when it comes to education. I work in human resources leadership initiatives for a global information technology corporation. We need highly skilled people to fill positions. We are not able to find them. As a parent, a veteran, and a citizen, I stand for this country and believe that education will be the difference maker in our progression or our regression.
I encourage you to learn more about public school options before you write this off as a political agenda. Learn what is really at stake. As a veteran from a family of veterans across all areas of the military (two brothers, 18 cousins and five uncles) I ask that you think long and hard about the right to education that we often take for granted.
(Deloyce Dhoruba specializes in human resource strategies and leadership development for a U.S.-based, multi-national global technology corporation. This article was written for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.)