As a mother in Bridgeport, I want what every Connecticut parent wants for their child: to be healthy, happy and to receive a quality education that will propel them in school and beyond. I want to wave goodbye to my son Jose each morning knowing he’s walking through the doors of a school that will provide him the education he needs and deserves.
In cities like Bridgeport, there are some quality public schools – but they are few and far between. More often than not, our neighborhood schools are failing our kids, and not providing an education that prepares them for the future.
And the effect of this disparity is devastating: some Connecticut kids are admitted to a quality school—essentially a golden ticket to success—while other kids, like my son, hopelessly sit on waitlists year after year. These kids sit on the outside looking in, with little more than hope that one day they will be lucky enough to pull the right lottery number to get the great education that all kids deserve.
The reality is, we all know what good schools look like. They are often the ones families clamor to enroll their children in and the ones that generate long waitlists.
How are we OK with leaving some kids behind while limiting access to these great public schools? Why aren’t we pushing for more of these high-quality school seats?
This is why I, alongside three other brave Connecticut families, filed a lawsuit last year called Martinez v. Malloy.
At its heart, Martinez v. Malloy is about ensuring every child, regardless of their background or zip code, receives a world-class education and an equal opportunity to succeed. In the case, we challenge Connecticut’s outdated, broken laws that prevent new magnet public schools and charter public schools from being built and opening their doors. We are also challenging the state’s Open Choice program, which penalizes school districts that accept students from inner-city school districts. Each of these policies are barriers to opportunity and perpetuate inequity in our state, effectively widening our state’s achievement and opportunity gaps.
Just like my fellow plaintiffs and I did by filing Martinez, parents must get involved in the fight for quality public education. And they must get involved now.
Whether it’s by speaking during public comment at a school board meeting, writing an opinion piece for the local paper, calling your local school board representative or filing a lawsuit, there’s a part for each and every Connecticut parent to play in improving our education system.
Why parents? As parents, we know what’s best for our kids. We are the ones on the frontlines each and every day, witnessing firsthand the issues with our public education system. We are the ones most invested in our kids and their futures. No one will fight harder than parents. We are the ones best equipped to put on the boxing gloves and step into the ring on behalf of our kids.
As parents, it’s time we band together and say enough is enough. We are our – and our children’s – own best advocate for the great public education they deserve. Will you join me?
Jessica Martinez is a parent advocate and lead plaintiff in the Martinez v. Malloy lawsuit.