Chinatown Year of the Rooster Parade at the crossroads of public education

Chinatown Year of the Rooster Parade at the crossroads of public education

The other day, one of my daughter’s teachers remarked that she was already sad about Eloise moving on to middle school in just a couple of years. Already a third grader, she is more than halfway through Castelar Elementary’s K-5 span.

My response was that my wife and I would be sad as well. We feel like our daughter is receiving an excellent education and is thriving at Chinatown’s public elementary school. Every teacher has been exceptional and we love her classmates, too. Did I mention that she’s learning Mandarin when neither of us parents read or write Chinese? All this at a public school in the inner city.

I continued, Wendy and I have benefited at least as much as Eloise. Starting off as volunteers at the curbside and then in the classroom, we graduated to organizing fundraising concerts, helping to plan events at the school itself, and heading the parent group. When a charter school threatened to co-locate on the campus, we became community advocates as well. We never planned on doing any of this stuff.

As a result, Wendy and I are currently more engaged and empowered than ever before in our lives and, hopefully, it is rubbing off on our daughter. And our experience is helping us handle the outrage many public education supporters are feeling over the appointment and approval of a completely unqualified, inexperienced, and pro-privatization Secretary of Education.

Our Commander in Chief and most of our Senate seem to be handing over public education to a donor who wants to pull the plug on it, and direct billions of our tax dollars toward vouchers and privately run charter schools that lack transparency and are unaccountable to every child. Even so, every day I see myself surrounded by staff, teachers, and families who are committed to the kids of Castelar and will continue to support the school regardless of who our nation’s top educator happens to be.

And this weekend, at least, it was fun for us to help represent Chinatown’s elementary school in the Year of the Rooster Parade. Eloise did cartwheels all the way down Broadway with classmates and I even took a few turns holding the head of the dragon as it snaked down the block. Why not? Our time at Castelar will only last so long and public education itself is at a crossroads. We will need whatever perks we can get as we remain dedicated to the public school our daughter attends, the community of my immigrant grandparents and in-laws, and the American institution of public schooling with more purpose than ever.

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