Choice is Power

How educational choice impacts aspiring Hispanic/Latino families

By Eduardo Sarmiento
Published on LatinoLA: June 2, 2016

Choice is Power

College for Certain! This is the motto of Aspire Public Schools. This simple statement has helped encourage, motivate, and instill a growth mindset within an under-served community. The traditional public school system has been the only option for a majority if not all families in and around the city of South Gate. However, in 2010 through the Public School Choice resolution, Aspire Public Schools became another viable option for many families.

In California and around the United States charter schools have opened their doors, and have provided much needed support to many under-served communities like South Gate. One way this was made possible was through funding provided by the state of California and the federal government in the form of startup grants.

Charter schools, like those affiliated with Aspire, are passionate about education and achieving equity through education reform. But those sitting in positions of power at state level are crusading to cease startup funds, thus preventing additional startup charter schools.

Studies have shown parents who choose, when given the opportunity, score higher on all the social capital indicators. (Mark Schneider et al.) In essence, parents who are choosing charter schools have the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, and those relationships help society to function effectively. But due to systematic failure of the existing educational system many communities are excluded from educational choice, preventing them from increasing social capital, and creating a cycle of educational and social stagnation.

Giving parents greater choice over the public schools their children attend creates incentives for parents as "citizen/consumers" (Schneider et al.) to engage in activities that build social capital.

This year South Gate selected a student from Aspire Gateway Academy for the coveted student of the year award. This award allowed a student and his family to be recognized by a city, and gave them an introduction to the movers and shakers within the city of South Gate, encouraging growth of social capitol for that family.

Aspire's commitment to excellence and "College for Certain" mantra is a call for all underserved communities to rise up and demand change from their local and state level representatives. Charter schools are not here to replace existing educational structures, instead charter schools are diversifying, and encouraging those existing educational structures to evolve to serve equally diverse communities.

Mark Schneider, Paul Teske, Melissa Marschall, Michael Mintrom and Christine Roch (1997). Institutional Arrangements and the Creation of Social Capital: The Effects of Public School Choice . American Political Science Review, 91, pp 82-93. doi:10.2307/2952260.

About Eduardo Sarmiento:
Eduardo started with Gateway Academy four years ago as a Campus Monitor while completing his bachelor's degree at CSUDH . Eduardo commitment to equity, and professional demeanor was recognized when he was promoted to community outreach manager.
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