Today is our last post in the child advocacy series and is written by Colorado blogger and friend, Lori Cooney.
Although we each have our own reasons for education advocacy, we as parents all have the same goal in mind and that’s for our children to receive the best possible education. For me, advocating for choice in education has become an important and significant part of my world. I am a passionate supporter of parents having options in choosing a school that best fits the learning needs of their child and in helping to ensure that public online schools remain an option for Colorado families.
I’m Lori Cooney, mom of 3, 2 who are currently enrolled in Colorado Virtual Academy (COVA), an online public charter school and 1 who is attending CU Boulder. I currently serve as president of the Colorado Coalition of Cyberschool Families (CCCF), I am the past president of the National Coalition for Public School Options (NCPSO), and I served a 2-year term on the Governor’s Online Advisory Board.
My story started back in 2004 when the traditional year round brick and mortar elementary school my daughter attended was not working for her. My oldest son graduated from this elementary school and went on to middle school where he participated in the AIM program, an advanced learning program, while my younger son continued on in the 3rd grade in this elementary school.
When I realized this was not a good fit for my daughter, I explored my options. I was familiar with the traditional homeschool model, but I was looking for something with more accountability and structure. I researched K12 from a friend’s recommendation and I liked what I found on the K12 website. I talked to a mom who had her children enrolled in COVA and I attended an info session hosted by COVA with my daughter. My daughter and I delved into the fabulous core knowledge curriculum, listened to a power point explaining this unique model of education, and I asked many questions; we were both hooked!
I was a bit scared to move from something I was so familiar with to something so new, but I knew one thing for absolute certain and that’s that the situation she was in was not working. I also knew that something had to change.
So after careful thought, I enrolled my daughter in Colorado Virtual Academy and day 1 of school was a wonderful explosion of learning and a whole lot of fun. Although I found a great fit for my daughter’s educational needs, I was aware that there were detractors out there who would attack or misunderstand our choice in this public school option.
At that time online education was still in it’s infancy in Colorado and nationwide as well. I became passionate about protecting this option which worked so well for us and for thousands of others, and I wanted to help make sure that online schools remained an option in Colorado.
In December 2004, a few online schools and a few parents of online schools started organizing in Colorado and around the nation as well. In Colorado we formed the Colorado Coalition of Cyberschool Families (CCCF) and today our coalition and others just like ours, represents tens of thousands of parents in states from coast to coast. The coalition’s represent a group of parents who came together to be vocal advocates for cyberschools, e-schools, online schools, and virtual learning.
There’s definitely a misunderstanding about how different models of public education work and many elected officials and members of the public don’t understand why parents want public education options for their children. As a coalition we wanted to help policymakers and others understand the value and importance of virtual schools, how virtual schools work and why we choose this option for our children.
Over the years online schools have faced many challenges, but as bills relevant to online education were introduced during legislative sessions, our parents testified at hearings and contacted legislators in order to have their voices heard.
For example, HB-1236 restricted home school and private school students who wanted to enter an online program. The bill said that if a student is not in a publicly funded institution, he/she may not enroll in a public online school the following year, but instead must complete at least one semester in a brick-and-mortar school first. In 2007 this restriction was lifted in part thanks to our active parent advocates who made their voice heard on this particular issue.
Another example is the 2007 legislative session which began with many concerns for online schools and parents, but the coalition worked hard to make sure parents’ voices were heard throughout the process. In May of 2007 Governor Ritter signed SB 215 which was the legislature’s response to the audit and although the bill wasn’t flawless in its support of online education, we were very pleased with the results.
CCCF sponsors several events throughout the year to help bring our cyber school families together and to help raise awareness of the online public school option. Check out our website for more details and our facebook page too.
I am proud to be a part of an organization of parent volunteers who have become powerful and vocal advocates for public online schools and choice in education. We have all worked hard to make sure parents have a “seat at the table” when policymakers make decisions that affect our children’s public online schools. We work hard to help policymakers understand how we school and why we chose this public online model. We have become a force should there be efforts or initiatives that would negatively affect our choice in public education.
Parent power really does matter and parents are their child’s biggest advocate.