I am a public school parent from Seattle, Washington. My teenage son Miles is enrolled in Rainier Prep, a public charter middle school in South King County. Since doors opened last fall, I’ve watched Miles learn to love school. Since the state Supreme Court issued a ruling that threatens to close his school, we’ve been active in the effort to save it, traveling to Olympia to meet with legislators, calling our local elected officials, and coordinating with other parents.
I heard Senator Hasegawa’s passionate remarks during the floor debate for SB 6194, a bill that would save public charter schools and restore the will of the voters, in which the Sen. Hasegawa stated: “I get offended when people start parading poor little brown and black faces out there and saying ‘oh those poor kids.’”
I am deeply concerned about any suggestion that my child is being paraded around as a political pawn. I have had the opportunity to accompany Miles on several visits to the Capitol as we continue to advocate for high-quality public charter school options in Washington State. You must know that in this process, my son has recognized his civic duty to be active and engaged in the local process of advocating for things that impact his life, and the lives of his peers.
My son, who chose to go to a public charter school of his own accord, is one among many hundreds of students from diverse family situations and backgrounds. His contemporaries span multiple cultures, religions and speak many languages. These students are standing up and be present for something they believe they deserve: access to great schools and bright futures.
While I understand that Senator Hasegawa is not yet a supporter of public charter schools, it is disappointing to hear his statements. Not only does he oppose these excellent schools, but he also seems opposed to the authentic engagement and involvement of kids like mine in political discourse.
We recently received our ballot for two new levies to help Seattle Public Schools with necessary funding for teacher pay, additional middle school classes, buildings, supplies, and school reorganization. As we do with every initiative and voting opportunity that comes our way, we discuss the issues, weigh the pros and cons as a family, and we cast our votes. For our family and many others like mine, the political process and our civic responsibility does not just stop with jumping on a bus to let you know who we are and what we are passionate about. We also care and think deeply about the impact of our actions the entire educational system.
It is my hope that Sen. Hasegawa and I can disagree constructively, but it is also my hope that my family will be welcomed as public citizens engaged in and impacting the entire political process.
I welcome Sen. Hasegawa and any of his colleagues to visit Rainier Prep, and to meet my son Miles and our family. It is our hope that our elected leadership will understand the authentic nature of our involvement in this process, as we advocate to make innovative, personalized, and high-quality learning opportunities available to all students and families who choose them.
Shirline S. Wilson