By Natalie Hester
Listening to Senator Bob Hasegawa’s comments last week during the floor debate for Senate Bill 6194, I felt disrespected and underestimated. When he said, “This might not be the most politically correct thing to say, but I get offended when people start parading poor little brown and black faces out there,” Sen. Hasegawa suggested that people who look like my daughter and me do not have the capacity to stand up for ourselves. He suggested that when we traveled to Olympia to ask our legislators to keep my daughter’s public charter school open, we were being paraded around.
Sen. Hasegawa and others may not expect African American parents – and other families of color – to be active participants in our children’s education and advocates for our communities, but I know from experience that he could not be more wrong.
I have lived in South Seattle for many years. I volunteer at both of my daughters’ schools. Every year on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, my family finds a way to give back to the community together. This year, I got to give my daughter the opportunity to have a front row seat to the democratic process.
On our day of action to save our children’s schools, public charter school parents from across Washington State joined together to make our voices heard. Despite Sen. Hasegawa’s comments, we felt overwhelmingly supported during our trip to Olympia. Working with other parents, teachers, school leaders, and advocacy organizations also fighting for our kids, we felt empowered. And while we may have not have relished having to implore a group to do the right thing for our children, please don’t misunderstand – we went because we wanted to.
We deeply understand the critical importance of a great education. As parents, we also know different children thrive in different environments. My younger daughter has an amazing teacher in a traditional public school and is growing and learning so much. My older daughter needs something different than what her designated traditional public high school provides. Now at the public charter school Summit Sierra, she is flourishing and getting prepared for college.
Our movement is not about putting down traditional schools. We’re about having choices to meet the unique needs of all children.
I invite Sen. Hasegawa and to come visit my daughter’s school, Summit Sierra in the International District, and see the learning and inspiration going on.
I believe all parents deserve high quality options for their children’s education. And even if Sen. Hasegawa disagrees, I know all students and parents deserve to have our voices heard and respected, especially on an issue so close to our hearts.