Marching for a Better Education

By Koppany Jordan
February 1, 2019

Members of the Inland Empire Parent Union march on MLK Day in Murietta, CA.

There was a new twist in Riverside County’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration. This year’s parade through the streets of Murietta included members of the Inland Empire Parent Union (IEPU).

IEPU President Christina Laster is fighting to get parents more involved in their children’s education. That mission includes helping parents understand they have options, including charter schools.

That explains why IEPU’s presence at the MLK march came with some controversy.

“One teacher in attendance was upset about [U.S. Secretary of Education] Betsy Devos and our support of school-choice,” Laster says. “I told her that the Parent Union has no opinion on Secretary Devos, and that we simply demand that every child receive access to a quality public education.”

Then Laster reminded the woman that, as a teacher, she should probably communicate her frustrations directly with her boss – Secretary Devos. “In the meantime,” she told the teacher, “I will continue advocating for parents, children, and families.”

IEPU recently hosted its first Riverside County School Choice Fair. Eight charter schools and three service providers participated in the January 19 event, fielding questions and providing information to 75 parents. Those who attended also watched presentations by one of the charter schools, the Performing Arts Academy, and enjoyed a variety of food.

Many parents were expressed their gratitude for the information they received regarding enrollment options and quality public education. Several parents also expressed their appreciation for the service providers and their ability to support them. Likewise, the charter schools and service providers were thrilled by the event and asked IEPU about future community collaboration projects.

The demand for parent unions, such as IEPU, continues to grow in California. As more parents seek to regain control of their children’s education, they sometimes need outside support. Laster believes that this can be done by teaching the Ten Commandments of Education, educating people and empowering them to educate others .

“It’s something of a viral model, a way of paying forward the gift one receives,” said Will Swaim, President of the California Policy Center, the organization that launched the Parent Union in 2016. Using this strategy, the Parent Union hopes to grow its membership and expand.

Laster says her Inland Empire Parent Union will host multiple community events in 2019, each designed “to bring awareness to enrollment options, celebrate students at the charter schools that bridge the gap for between families and community services and leaders.”

Her ultimate goal? “Eventually we’d like to spread the Parent Union throughout the state and beyond.”

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Koppany Jordan serves as the Assistant to the President of California Policy Center

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