Why can’t life be fair?
I wondered this to myself as I attempted to navigate the perils of I-20 this morning. Getting past the other cars wasn’t the problem.
Seeing through my tears was.
Everyone is posting pictures on Facebook of their kids heading off to their first day of Pre-K.
My kid is still at day care. It’s certainly not because we didn’t try to get into a public Pre-K program. I was number 17 in line sitting on the sidewalk before the sun came up the morning Crosley opened their doors to register out-of-district students. With 50+ spots left to fill, you would think that would’ve clinched a spot for Sarah.
They went to a lottery system, and she was eleventh on the waiting list. She miraculously moved up to fourth after a couple of months, but less engaged parents who decided two months after registration had already taken place that they might need to enroll their kid somewhere strolled in at the last minute and took the few available spots. There we were spiraling down past the eleventh spot somewhere into the twenties.
And it’s not like Crosley was turning people away because they were already at capacity.
They had seven spots open but couldn’t fill them because they had to be reserved for free- or reduced-lunch kids. After a certain date passes, shouldn’t the school be able to fill those spots with students from the waiting list? Is it so important to have those spots open that you would rather leave them vacant and deny other kids the chance to go to Pre-K just because you were hoping some free- or reduced-lunch kids might show up to take them?
I called Riser, and they had plenty of spots open, so we registered there. Again, the answer came in, “no.”
All the local schools take the free- and reduced-lunch kids first, which means if you are not one of those kids, you get whatever spots are left, assuming there are any. It’s not first-come, first-served like it once was. Parents have no reason to be motivated to rush to the school anymore to be first in line and show their commitment to their child’s education.
Why should they when the lottery system makes it all a game of chance? Lottery, schmottery. The whole process can kiss my behind.
Contrary to how my attitude must surely seem, I don’t begrudge the free- and reduced-lunch kids those spots. They have a right to an education just like anyone else, and perhaps there are some of them who need that extra hand up in Life.
I get that.
I think it’s great that our educational system is not set up to reward the kids who come from a more advantaged home and exclude the kids who don’t. But that system shouldn’t penalize the hopelessly middle-class kids.
My kid is not a free- or reduced-lunch kid. Not by a long shot. But guess what? She is also not from a family who can afford to send her to private school. Unfortunately for her, she is hopelessly caught in the middle.
What I don’t get is why the school system and the State, in all their infinite wisdom, think it’s better to keep those spots vacant rather than fill them with kids who are eager to learn and parents who are interested in transitioning to kindergarten and supporting their child’s education.
After a certain date, accept that no one else is going to register their kid and start filling those spots.
Don’t get me wrong – we love our “school,” as we have always called it.
At some point, in an effort to ease my conscience about having to leave my kids at day care for someone else to raise eight hours a day, I began calling day care “school.” It has a much nicer ring to it, in my opinion. Makes it official. Makes me feel less like I’m farming my kids out and more like I’m doing something good for them.
Our school is awesome. Everyone there knows my kids and their quirks. I trust my kids’ “other mothers” to protect them and to keep me informed. I have a wonderful relationship with the ladies who work at the school, and I have an open-door, two-way-communication with the owners.
They know if there is thunder, Aubrey will be scared and need to be held. The owner herself has come down to the classroom and held Aubrey so she wouldn’t be afraid.
They know Sarah is afraid of going in the bathroom with the door closed because of an experience she had at her previous school when she got stuck in a pitch-black bathroom during a fire drill. They make sure she can prop the door open while she is in there.
They know neither of my kids will eat their sandwich if there is mayonnaise or cheese. Each time turkey sandwiches come up on the menu, there is a plate in front of each of my kids with bread and turkey only.
They understand my kids. They encourage Aubrey to explore and Sarah to color everyone’s hair purple if that’s what she chooses. They applaud their successes and hold their hands when they are afraid. They keep me updated on things that happen, and there are cameras in every room so I can watch from my desk at work all day if I choose.
We love our school!
So why was I barreling down I-20 this morning putting my life and the lives of everyone around me into jeopardy as I tried to maneuver through a torrential downpour of bitter tears?
Because life isn’t fair. Because the system is flawed. Because I am a world-changer who is stuck in the Life of a middle-class, Louisiana-living, voiceless mom.
Well guess what, friends and neighbors?
This mom isn’t going to be voiceless much longer. There are many things I don’t have in this Life, but the limitless power of words is something of which I have plenty.
Hoffman, Jones, Vitter, Katz, Walsworth and all the men and women in districts with which I don’t even have contact, get prepared. You don’t know me, but you will.
You will soon hear from me. It will be detailed. I will demand action. I will expect to hear from you. I will make sure everyone I can contact through my blog, personal contact and Facebook knows about this problem.
And I will expect you to respond in a manner consistent with the magnitude of the problem.
We have a serious lack of Pre-K programs, and the programs we do have are not equally available to all kids. How can we ever truly compete in a global economy when we are not doing all we can to educate our children? How will we ever break out of the cycle of poor health outcomes, lack of a skilled workforce and the brain drain that happens when we send kids to Louisiana schools and lose them to other parts of the country where there are more and better opportunities?
You’re probably thinking I’m over-inflating the issue simply because I’m upset my kid didn’t get into either of the schools at which we applied. Yes, I am upset, but we’re happy with the school where we are. We are not worried Sarah will be behind when she starts school. We have faith in her teacher, and we are the kind of parents who will reinforce her lessons and work with her on our own.
However, we are worried she will start school in a state that is short-sighted, poorly funded and lacking in the mindset it takes to prepare our kids educationally. It is not enough to say we need to fix Louisiana’s educational system. It is not going to help for politicians to rattle on about how the system is flawed and do nothing to change it.
We must act.
If our educational system is flawed, perhaps it is the parents who need to step up and demand change. Educators and legislators have tried rattling that cage for years.
If you want a cage to truly be rattled, sick a group of mad mamas on it. There won’t be any cage left when they’re done.
Rattle, rattle, Louisiana. To quote one of my favorite comedians, “I think you hear me knocking, and I think I’m coming in.”