Yesterday, we shared the story of Joy Herbert, a heavily involved parent of son, Anthony, 17, a former ‘A’ student who was forced to drop out of school due violence. But a few miles away in North Philadelphia, Lorenzo White and his son Lukious, 13, are faced with the same reality that finds thousands of Philadelphians trapped in schools where fewer than 20 percent of fourth and eighth-grade public school students are proficient in reading or math on the NAEP.
Lorenzo, like Joy, is far from the stereotypically neglectful, uninvolved parent painted by many opponents of school choice as the primary reason for failing schools. An advocate and active member of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, he enrolled his son into General David B. Birney Elementary School as an honor roll student and star athlete. What he has two years later is a troubled child, struggling for his education.
“The whole environment has changed him in his mannerisms and demeanor,” said White of one of the state’s 143 most failing schools. “This school is changing a good guy into a bad one.”
White, too, sees escaping the public school system as the only way to get his son back on track, but after years of trying their luck at charter school lotteries their number has never come up. He now sees parental empowerment though school choice as their only hope.
“I love the fact that I have choice when it comes to shopping for a car, my clothes or a house, but why don’t I have choice when it comes to shopping for a school or education for my son,” said White. “School Choice is important but parental choice is even more important, because we should have the power and the right to choose where our children are educated.”
Lorenzo sees the current legislative quagmire over school choice legislation as anything but helpful. While Lukious waits, watches and wonders if Harrisburg will break the status quo and throw them an educational lifeline, Lorenzo deals with the cold, harsh reality.
“My son knows what he wants-he wants to be more than just a basketball or football player-he has his eyes on being an engineer or a scientist,” said White. “But if I can’t pick my son up out of that school because he’s not being challenged then I don’t have a choice, I have to leave him there.”
The clock continues to tick and Lukious continues to wait.
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