After months of waiting (and more than one email to Paramount) to find out if and when the movie Waiting for Superman would come to Mississippi, the movie was here and gone in the blink of an eye.  For those of you who didn’t get to the theater before the movie closed in Mississippi, the film follows five children and their families who want a better education than their assigned public school can offer them and who can’t afford private school options.  Instead, they are hoping to get into a high-performing charter school via lottery.  The movie also explores the deep challenges we have in public education in America.Whatever your feelings are about charter schools, it is hard to see this movie and not feel how trapped these students and their families feel by their circumstances.  One of the most heart-breaking facets of the film is the story of one mother who is doing everything right to try to advocate for her child in a broken school.  She is the “demanding parent” that we so often hear people say is lacking in failing schools.  And yet, it isn’t enough.  She wants to get her child into the Harlem Success Academy, the Harlem Children Zone’s charter school, because she wants a better education for her child now, not in the five years it often takes to turnaround a traditional public school.But, critics may counter, not every child can go to Harlem Success.  What about everyone else?  These critics believe that since not every child will be served by a high-performing charter school, charter schools should not be allowed for any child.  We at Mississippi First do not find this argument compelling.  Of course we should find a solution for every child.  Meeting the challenges where they are–in traditional public education–must be part of the equation.

But just because high-performing charter schools may only be part of the solution doesn’t mean that they aren’t still part of the solution.  This is why Mississippi First works on both charter school policy and school turnaround policy at the same time: we see them as two sides of the same coin.  Both have a role to play in providing an excellent education to every child.

Mississippi First is done waiting for Superman to come along and save our schools.  We’re done waiting for the magic bullet that promises to instantly improve public education for all children, and we’re done waiting for permission from the power players to move our reform agenda.  We’ve got a lot of work to do on policies related to pre-Kindergarten, school turnaround, charter schools, and teacher and leader effectiveness, to name a few.  We’ve joined the Done Waiting coalition, a national group of folks who feel the same way.

If you feel the same sense of urgency that we do, let us know that you’d like to become an advocate for one of our issues.  Forward our newsletter to your friends.  Send us a donation to support our work.  Talk to your colleagues about why public education reform is important.  Invite us to speak at a local event.  We want you to join us because it’s going to take a lot more than Mississippi First to move Mississippi forward.  It’s going to take you, Mississippi.

Have a great Thanksgiving.

Rachel Hicks
Executive Director
Rachel can be reached via email at rachel@mississippifirst.org.

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