This past week in my education column for The Philadelphia Daily News, I wrote about a Philadelphia couple who were criminally charged by the Montgomery County District Attorney for claiming their elementary school daughter lived with her grandfather in Lower Moreland Township so she could get a better education
You heard right. Criminally charged.
I am not condoning the actions of the parents. They tried to get their child out of the Philadelphia School District by falsely claiming the girl lived at her grandfather’s house in Lower Moreland Township. Olesia Garcia, the little girl’s mother, claimed she and her daughter lived in Lower Moreland with the little girl’s grandfather.
The Lower Moreland School District discovered this, but charging the parents with a criminal offense is outrageous. Doesn’t District Attorney Rise Ferman have more important criminals (like murderers, burglars and drug dealers, for starters) to pursue and prosecute?
The case of the Garcia family vividly speaks to the desperation parents feel when their child is trapped in a failing school system. There is a desperate need to fix our broken education system, but edu-crats and the leadership of many teachers unions resist any efforts to reform and improve schools. Instead of seeking to fix the flaws in our education system, there seems to be greater energy and passion into protecting the status quo.
I hope you will read my column by clicking here.
After my column was published, I received an interesting and insightful response from Charlotte Erace, an American History teacher at a charter school in Philadelphia. Here is an excerpt from her letter:
As a current Philadelphia charter school American History teacher and a graduate of one of Pennsylvania’s premier public school districts (Council Rock ’03), I feel all too familiar with the topic of public vs. charter vs. private, as well as the issues of vouchers and parents who forge addresses in an attempt to give their child a better education.
I’ve also taught in an alternative school in North Philly, a public school in Montgomery County and a Philadelphia charter high school. With all that being said, I often find myself wondering, “Is it the schools? The money or lack thereof? The teachers? The parents? Or maybe the students?”
Or is it just the environment?
Council Rock is an outstanding district. We know this; just look at its percentage of college-bound graduates and its standardized test scores. With stats like those of a school like Council Rock, it’s obvious why parents with limited choices in good schools would be tempted to lie to get their students into a neighboring suburban school district.
But it’s also a wealthy district with college educated parents who apply TONS of pressure to their kids because THEY know the value of education and its monetary payoffs.
Council Rock also has some incredible teachers, of course, but the teachers I had when I was a Council Rock student are no better than the teachers I work with now at an urban charter school. As a suburban student living in and teaching in an urban area, I can’t help but wonder if most of this boils down to a student’s environment.
Everyone is so hell-bent on blaming teachers and I get it. Look, not every teacher is effective and ineffective teachers don’t deserve to be taking up space at schools that claim they have their student’s best interests at heart. But how much really has to do with a student’s environment?
When I was a student at Council Rock, it wasn’t the teachers or the principals who made me the solid student I was; it was the pressure I felt from my parents who EXPECTED that I excel and get my butt into a good college.
It was also the pressure I felt from my peers who believed “C”s were the equivalent to “F”s. Not wanting to look like a failure amongst my Ivy League-bound peers, or disappoint my parents, I continually stepped up my game and graduated with honors.
But, now, having taught in a number of urban school environments, I rarely see that same pressure being placed upon the students from their own families or from their peers.
Instead of parents lying about their addresses to get their kids into better schools, maybe we can better our own Philadelphia schools if parents, instead, come together to put pressure on their kids in the RIGHT ways.
Clearly, this is only one suggestion in a city whose schools could use 1,000 solid suggestions. But before we start slashing budgets, firing teachers and pushing vouchers, maybe we need leaders who, instead, are going to look at the students and their families and first ask them what THEY’RE doing to turn their student’s education into a pressure-worthy pursuit.
President Kennedy told us not to ask what our country can do for us, but what we can do for our country. Maybe it’s time that we stop asking what our schools can do for us, but what we can do for our students and our schools.
Dom says: As I teacher, I saw the same things that Charlotte mentioned. It is disheartening to see disengaged parents because they were doing such a disservice to their children’s future. I could always tell by the first Parent-Teacher conferences which students were going to do well that year: the ones with the involved and motivated parents.
A student’s success is dependent on three legs of the stool: good teachers, an achievement-oriented school culture and engaged parents to guide and motivate them. The stool cannot stand if one of the legs is missing, weak or broken.
What do you think?