When one of Los Angeles’ most celebrated charter elementary and middle schools, known for its racial diversity and unique program for students with special needs, seeks approval to create a high school, you’d think it would be a no-brainer.
Despite its strong academic performance and groundbreaking educational model that places even the most severely disabled students in the same classroom as their peers, WISH Charter School’s application was recommended for denial by the school district. Even the school board president, Steve Zimmer, who has praised WISH as a model charter school, was ready to deny the school’s proposal.
But parents and students didn’t give up. They packed the L.A. Unified board room and, one after another, shared the invaluable impact that WISH has had on their lives. They appealed to board members’ minds and hearts. After a long and tense discussion, with families in the audience hanging on every word, the school board voted to approve WISH’s high school. The room exploded in applause and tears. Congratulations WISH families on your powerful and successful advocacy!
Richmond charter school families have proven to be a powerful advocacy force. Recently, they won a long battle to ensure that all public school students will share in the city’s $35 million college scholarship program. They’ve also rallied to defeat statewide anti-charter legislation and built bridges with community leaders.
Their latest effort involves protecting charter schools’ right to find and develop facilities. Securing space and developing it is already one of the biggest challenges facing charter schools across California. But instead of helping charters overcome this challenge, Richmond city officials are exploring regulations that would make it even more difficult for charters to develop facilities.
In response, dozens of charter parents recently gathered at the Richmond Planning Commission to challenge the proposed zoning laws, which would cost charters time and money that should be spend in the classroom instead. They told the commission why charters need support as they seek to expand and improve their facilities to serve students in need. Richmond families will continue to pressure city officials to partner with charters instead of hinder them. Stay tuned.
She helped start two middle schools. She fought for all public school students to receive equal access to college scholarship funding. She lobbied her representative in Sacramento to oppose anti-charter legislation. And she’s a mom.
It’s easy to see why Tomasa Espinoza was honored as Volunteer of the Year at the California Charter Schools Association’s annual conference last month in Long Beach. A charter school parent in Richmond, Tomasa is the living embodiment of what it means to be an advocate for kids. She is relentless yet warm, determined yet patient. “She’s taught me about leadership and how to motivate others to take action,” says Yannell Selman, a parent organizing director at CCSA.
Watch this touching video about Tomasa’s advocacy on behalf of families. Thank you Tomasa for everything that you do!