School choice and race: How the debate affects parents – and communities

The story of an anti-school choice Chicago Teachers Union president who sent her son to private school understandably generated political backlash. As a parent who sees the viability of both public and private schools, Stacy Davis Gates’ decision made me think about the past and the present. 

The first time I stepped into a schoolhouse, it was in preschool at the Minnie Palmore House, a private institution established by one of South Carolina’s great Black educators. A short time later, in kindergarten, I attended Clara E. Jenkins Elementary, located in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Augusta, Georgia. Hyde Park, which shares the name of a well-known neighborhood in Chicago, was later found to be in a toxic hotbed

My early childhood experiences in education were relative to my parents’ availability, which is why I largely ended up alongside my mother in public school from first grade until I graduated high school. Conversations about “school choice” end up pitting public schools against private institutions, but I find that parents don’t care about those logistics nearly as much as they just want the best educational opportunities for their children.