“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring in a folding chair.”

With these words, Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman to be elected to the United States House of Representatives, encouraged others not to wait for an invitation to engage in public discourse on important issues. That is exactly what is happening in the realm of school choice advocacy.

Several weeks ago, I accepted an invitation extended by Indianapolis based, EdChoice, a leading school choice advocacy group, to attend Education Odyssey-Exploration in Action- A collaborative event focused on the next steps of school choice policy. The creators of the event were intentional and provided a forum that welcomed public discourse with a vision for education equity. The participants represented a diverse demographic which facilitated deep engagement, a broad understanding of school choice, and the different communities it benefits. I had the honor of representing public school educators at this event. Charter, private, and homeschooling was also represented. This group was assembled for the purpose of sharing many perspectives on K-12 education policy. The discussion focused on school choice and the impact on the communities it has historically benefited. In addition, as more states enact school choice, the communities choosing non-traditional education is expanding. As the movement grows, access to information and resources needs to shift to a broader, more diverse school choice base. This was a vision cast for future work.

Education Odyssey 2022-Exploration in Action was a success by all measures. The forum was designed to equip participants to inform, connect, and advocate for school choice. the goal was to analyze the captured takeaways of COVID-19 learning and focus on 2022/2023 educational steps. Three collaborative teams were formed to:

  • Support parent advocates for school choice
  • Build a broader school choice movement
  • Boost public awareness of school choice options

Thank you EdChoice, for allowing me to be a part of this important work. I am thankful for the opportunity to listen and learn from thought leaders, activists, entrepreneurs, parents, and educators who live their conviction that school choice is a vehicle to education freedom. My personal takeaway from this collaboration is, while public policy influences school choice, school choice is not a political position. School choice advocates come from both sides of the aisle. School choice advocates labor under the notion that all children deserve a quality, purposeful education, but it won’t look the same for every child. This is the nonnegotiable pillar of school choice. This is the position that must drive school reform and policy.

The endgame of this collaboration and discussion was equipping stakeholders to effectively articulate policy to impact education choice and freedom. Education Odyssey 2022-Exploration in Action accomplished this. It provided a table from which I was able to lend my view and voice, as a public-school educator They invited me to a seat at the table. No folding chair needed.

Joan Walden is a teacher in Hamilton County, Indiana. Working with and advocating for students and their families is what she values most. Joan works closely with families to ensure a viable home/school connection, and to better know and serve her students. Joan serves as a coach for Girls on the Run, Inc. Joan is a 2022 Association of American Educators Fellow.