As I grew up in Mexico, my parents always stressed the importance of education.
Raising my children here in this country, I work hard to pass down to them the value of education.
The best legacy I can leave to them is a good education. That will be the only guarantee to a life of success and to ensure they are good and productive citizens in this country.
Unfortunately, far too many schools in our communities are failing to give our students the education they need.
In Dallas County, only one out of every three fourth-graders are reading at a level that puts them on track for college. And only 4 percent of our Latino and African-American students graduate from high school ready to succeed in college.
Some schools are doing a great job with our students, but others are leaving them behind. In the Dallas and Fort Worth school districts, 34 schools have been rated “Academically Unacceptable” for at least two years in a row.
That’s why, over the last few months, I have traveled multiple times to Austin to advocate for Senate Bill 14, the Parent Empowerment Act, along with other parents and faith leaders.
This bill would, for the first time ever, give real power to parents whose children are stuck in the lowest-performing schools.
Parents at such schools could organize and force the district to make changes that their kids need. If the district can’t or won’t do the job, parents can even bring in a local public charter school operator to improve the school.
I had never gone to the Capitol to testify before, but this issue is important to me. I was happy to see that so many legislators supported me and other parents and want us to have more power.
Other organizations, like the local League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the Texas State PTA, were also standing with us.
Our bill has passed out of the Texas Senate but we are still waiting on the House Education Committee to vote on it. If they do not vote to support it by May 23, this important bill will die without getting a hearing.
This would be unfair and unjust to parents and kids in our lowest-performing schools. Parents from Dallas and across the state are speaking up with one clear message: Give our bill a vote!
For too long, we have told parents in communities like mine to just sit back and wait while too many of our schools fail.
It is unjust to our communities to let children leave school without a quality education. And it doesn’t make sense for our broader society. We will wind up paying for this problem in the future through higher costs for incarceration, social programs and a weaker economy.
Failure to educate some kids now costs all of us in the future.
Many students in Texas, like mine, have parents that immigrated to this country looking for a better life. We need our schools to help teach students what it means to be citizens of this country and to achieve mastery in English and math.
Empowering parents won’t fix all of our problems in public education, but it’s a good place to start.
If parents have more power to help fix some of our lowest-performing and most neglected public schools, we can all win.
Violeta Rios is a parent of three and community activist from North Dallas.