Access Denied

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Growing up with a grandmother who was an educator raised in segregated Alabama, I always knew how important receiving a good education was.

When I had my children, I looked for the best educational options. As a parent, I desired a quality education for my children in a diverse school setting. It quickly became clear to me that lack of access to a quality education and school segregation was not a thing of the past for the African American community.

I have watched my children's school become more diverse as school choice in Indiana has grown over the past five years. The private school my children attend is still predominantly Caucasian, but each year I see more diversity in the student body.  My children have friends from all different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds because of school choice.

It also became clear to me when I was talking to a family member who is down on her luck, how far we still have to go in providing access to a quality education for everyone. My family member, a single mother, works for a local township school where she was able to enroll her children. She recently lost her car and had been having trouble getting transportation to work and to her kids' school. She was told by her sons’ school if they were late or missed any more days of schools, they would have to return to their assigned school, or they would send her to truancy court.

In my effort to encourage and help this single mother who lives within the boundaries of Indianapolis Public Schools, I helped her research her neighborhood schools. She hadn't looked at them in a few years. I hoped progress had taken place at her neighborhood schools and this option would be a quality one. She has one son in seventh grade and another in fifth grade and both their elementary and middle school options are D and F rated schools.  Looking at charter and private voucher school options would again pose a transportation issue. This mother was torn between sending her children to failing schools to meet the state's requirement to attend school or finding a way to give them access to a quality education. Luckily, she had a co-worker who was willing to help with transporting her boys to school until she gets back on her feet.

During Black History Month, we reflect upon the struggles of black people and the progress we have made.  One area of highlight during this month is our fight for civil rights, but providing access to a quality education is a civil right we are still fighting for in our poor and minority communities today. I had family members who marched to Selma on that Bloody Sunday in 1965, so we could have equality in many areas including education. There are so many poor and minority families who can't access quality education options in 2018. As we continue to improve education options in Indiana and many places across the country, we need to be sure to create access to those options for the families who need them most.  


 

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Cheryl Kirk

Mrs. Kirk is a married mother of three children, 16-year-old twins and a 9 year-old son, who all currently attend private school on a voucher. She is a Gary, Indiana native but has lived in Indianapolis for many years. While trying to provide a quality education for her children she met many obstacles and became determined to access the best education for her children. Cheryl is a licensed practical nurse and has worked in home care, hospice, long-term care, and is currently the clinical director for an assisted living facility.