school leadership

You Want Parents? This Is What It's Going to Take to Empower Them in the Fight for Better Schools

Parent organizing ain't easy. Many organizations have tried to organize parents and communities and have failed. We end up yelling at parents, "Parent involvement is crucial! Why don't you do more to engage?" or "You must do more to advocate for your school!" But here’s the thing: The problem isn’t parents. There’s a fundamental lack of understanding about what community organizing and parent engagement actually is—and a lack of appreciation for the skill set you need to make it work. People often look to school leaders and assume they should know how to organize and yell and scream at them to "Do more to engage and build a parent community!" or "Get your parents more involved!" The problem is, school leaders are experts at running schools not movement building and not organizing. I've been in conversation with many folks struggling to understand why it's so hard to organize parents and what it will take to really give parents a strong, unified voice. I recently founded a group that's dedicated to just this idea. Massachusetts Parents United (MPU), was founded by three moms who believe that parents have more to offer the movement for better schools than simply running a bake sale. Parents, too, can help build safer neighborhoods, stable homes and ensure high-quality education. Decisions made at the local, state and national level have a direct impact on our children and families and we’re ready to stand up and take our seat at the table where policy decisions are made. We know that we can build a powerful army of "Mama Bears" who will rise up and force change in the system that is failing their babies by building real, authentic relationships; investing time, money and resources; and by truly listening to parents. While MPU works in coalition with other community organizations, our children are unapologetically at the center of our agenda and every decision.
  • We believe that children deserve to grow up in safe and secure neighborhoods that are free of violence and fear of deportation.
  • We believe that children deserve to grow up in safe homes without fear of homelessness and displacement because of a lack of affordable housing.
  • We believe that children deserve to have the opportunity to access high-quality schools in their neighborhoods, including district, charter and private schools that work to better serve our kids.
Seems pretty simple, right? It should be. Together, MPU chapters come together to develop a powerful network of motivated parents who are able to amplify each other’s voices and impact policy decisions on the statewide level. We join and help build coalitions with folks who are interested in working together to make real change for our children—with no other agenda. I once had someone say, "Well, what if parents are making the wrong decisions?" Let me tell you, parents won't ever make the wrong decision for their children because it's their children on the line. You may not agree with the exact outcome and if so, maybe you should take another look at the "solution" you are trying to advance. Parents will always fight for what's right for their children. For what they need. For what they deserve. Believe it.
An original version of this post appeared on EduMom as What's the Deal with Parents Anyway?.
Keri Rodrigues is Matthew, Miles and David’s mom—an awesome family that lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. She is founder and Mom-in-Chief at Massachusetts Parents United, a parent advocacy group bringing together thousands of parents across the Commonwealth to fight for safer neighborhoods, stable and secure homes and high quality education for every ...

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