Democratic Presidential Candidates Aren't Talking About K-12 Education and That's Why We Crashed Their Debate in Houston

Sep 12, 2019 12:00:00 AM


All eyes may be on the third round of Democratic presidential candidates' debates happening tonight. But let me direct your attention for a second to a little something else that I’m affectionately calling the “Houston Takeover”—formally the charter school community rally convened by the Coalition for Charter Schools.

Let me get y’all up to speed.

If you’ve been reading Hope and Outrage over the past few months, you’ve noticed that I’ve been highly upset with the candidates’ lack of discussion around improving K-12 public education.

They keep talking about college for all but skirt around plans for how to get them all there. And when I talk about getting “them all there,” I’m talking about students of color and those in low-income communities that are plagued by the ills of a biased and racist public education system.

Simultaneously, I’ve been talking about this national attack on charter schools.

Now because I’m not the only one who’s upset by these issues, and also because great advocates think alike—action was born out of frustration. And that brought the dopest school choice advocates from around the country to Houston during the debates—thus, the creation of the “Houston Takeover.”

Yesterday, hundreds of Black and Latinx school leaders, students, parents and choice advocates gathered in MacGregor Park in Houston to tell the anti-choice supporters to keep their hands off charter schools.

We heard from school leader and advocate, Dr. Steve Perry, whose message to the Democratic presidential candidates was, “We’re not playing with y’all—we won’t be political pawns.”

Teresa—a parent from Beatrice Mayes Charter School—spoke on how her daughter spent a whole year in the Houston traditional public school system and none of the staff in her school even knew her daughter’s name.

And Massachusetts Parents United leader and mom, Keri Rodrigues, spoke on the power of advocacy and delivered the call to action to the crowd.

The most beautiful thing about that rally was the kids—our future showed up in droves to advocate for their education.

And the energy and power they radiated let me know that they are very capable of fighting for their academic futures.

But the shame of it all lies in the fact that these students actually have to fight for their futures. 

They have to gather in a park with signs asking politicians to keep their schools open.

Black and Latinx parents have to show up to state capitols and plead with legislators not to pass bills that would harm charter schools.

Our communities have to advocate for school options that unequivocally exist in affluent, White communities.

So I have a few requests. 

  • When you all watch the debates tonight, look out for what the candidates say—and don’t say—about their plans for fixing or improving K-12 education.
  • Beyond the debates, pay attention to who and what the candidates advocate for and why. Why do they go so hard for teachers unions and not charter school teachers or Black and Brown charter school leaders?
  • Ask yourselves why the candidates are allowed the option of sending their kids to schools they deem quality, while Black and Latinx parents in low-income communities are denied that same right.
  • When they are critical of or mute on school choice, really consider the fact that it’s the disregard and dismissal of equal and equitable education for marginalized communities.
  • And finally, think about the 3.2 million students who are in charter schools—why did they end up there in the first place? Where would they go if these candidates take their schools away?

Start putting students before politics.

Tanesha Peeples

Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work—“If not me, then who?” As the former Deputy Director of Activist Development for brightbeam, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for change in the public education system. Her passion for community and relentless mission for justice and liberation drive her in uplifting and amplifying the voices and advocacy of those that are often ignored. Tanesha wholeheartedly believes that education is the foundation for success. Her grand vision is one where everyone—regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender or ZIP code—can have access to a comfortable quality of life and enjoy the freedoms and liberties promised to all Americans. And that's what she works towards every day.

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