Sunday, December 2, Roland Martin hosted a town hall entitled “School Choice is the Black Choice.” As one would expect, the event was attended in large part by black people who were pro-school choice, a welcome change for a typically polarizing issue. I took my seat, and I prepared to hear an informative back and forth about school choice. For once, the principal debate wasn’t on whether or not school choice was a good thing. But to my chagrin, instead of getting a debate on how to improve or amplify school choice like I expected, most of the talk was around the nuanced systems and options in Indianapolis.
Roland Martin is not local and is unfamiliar with the Indianapolis educational system. So, in order to get to a point where real conversation could happen, a few things had to be explained to him, and it didn’t go well. He was admittedly confused. It’s not his fault, nor was it the fault of then, Deputy Superintendent for Academics, Aleesia Johnson, who was doing the explaining. The truth is Indianapolis has a uniquely complicated and intricate educational landscape. Between IPS, the townships, charters, and innovation schools, it’s easy to see how people can get confused.
That’s when it hit me: Our system is way too complicated to expect students and families to understand let alone navigate it.
Aleesia Johnson is quite possibly the most qualified person in all of metro Indianapolis to explain the educational system. If she can’t make Roland Martin, a man who has already devoted much of his life to this very topic, understand how everything works here, then why do we expect parents with far less background knowledge to understand everything with just a pamphlet or two around back to school time?
School choice is important. That wasn’t really ever questioned at the event, and I walked away more convinced of that than ever, but a good school choice system presupposes families know their options. And considering half the people in that room didn’t even seem to know the ins-and-outs of the system, we can’t reasonably expect families to know either.
People keep saying more community outreach is needed, but I’m not sure that’s enough. We need to look at simplifying the system as a whole.