Imagine a world in which lobbying groups and politicians — complete strangers to you and your family — were trying to close the school where you proudly send your children every day.
For me, there’s no imagining. It’s the world I share with nearly 1,700 parents across Washington who fear their kids’ schools will close and that we’ll have to find an alternative.
Here’s what I cannot imagine: finding a better option for my children than SOAR Academy in Tacoma.
SOAR is a charter school. But more important than anything else, it provides my children with an education I couldn’t find anywhere else. My boys get the opportunities and support to help them succeed. To say that my husband and I feel comfortable with our kids at SOAR is an understatement. We are over the moon.
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For parents like me, charter schools like SOAR have been a blessing. It was a choice my family made, not for political reasons but because it was the best option for our children. We had the power to choose, and my kids are better off for it.
Each of our 6-year-old twin sons has unique educational needs that SOAR tends to every day, putting my mind at ease that they’re getting the support and structure they need to graduate and one day go to college. We look forward to enrolling our two younger sons to SOAR when they reach kindergarten age.
All parents deserve to exercise the right to select the public school option that’s best for their children. Not all kids are the same, but that doesn’t mean our kids deserve any less. For me and my family, the best fit was SOAR.
Luckily, I am not alone in my support of charter schools. Voters across the state approved Washington’s charter law via ballot measure in 2012, and after it was discovered that the funding mechanism needed to be tweaked, our state legislators did the unthinkable in our current political climate: They came together from both sides of the aisle to pass a law earlier this year that ensured charters remained open and funded.
Time and again, Washingtonians have fought to make charter schools a reality. That’s why parents should be angry about El Centro de la Raza v. Washington state, a lawsuit challenging the charter law. Political lobbying groups are attempting to strike down funding yet again. What they’re trying to do is undermine the public education system and close the school my kids go to every day.
If these interest groups were truly focused on helping all students, they would show deference to the fact that charters are closing the achievement gap, serving more students in underserved communities and achieving amazing results.
Charters are attracting more parents in Washington who hear success stories and want terrific outcomes for their own children. It’s why my family became a SOAR family. And it’s why hundreds of other families in Washington have chosen charter schools, too.
Such success is why parents like me are so saddened to see lobbying groups misuse our justice system to start another political fight. Fueling controversy around charters with legal battles helps no one — and my family and children bear the cost.
I will continue to fight for charters, even in the face of intimidation tactics like this lawsuit, because I believe in these schools and cannot fathom my family’s future without them. Our sons are thriving at SOAR, and we love being a SOAR family.
What more is there to fight about?
Crystal Swaffer of Tacoma is the mother of four young children, two of whom attend SOAR Academy. It is one of three publicly funded, privately operated charter schools in Tacoma.