A new voice for D.C. parents in shaping schools policy?

Fresh off his loss in April’s at-large D.C. Council race, Matthew Frumin is returning to his roots as an education activist.

Frumin is seeking to organize a new advocacy group devoted to unifying and amplifying the voice of parents in shaping D.C. schools policy. It’s a voice that’s too often been missing in debates about the future of public education in the city, he said.

“A bunch of people have been saying to me in recent months that it’s a piece we’re missing — an organization with parents at its heart, advocating for the local school system,” said Frumin, a Ward 3 Democrat whose youngest child attends Wilson High School.

SHAPPE — the Senior High Alliance of Parents, Principals and Educators — is a strong and vocal advocate for high schools, Frumin said, but doesn’t represent parents of younger children.

He launched a petition last week outlining the basic principles that the new group would advocate for, including transparent decision-making, treating schools as community centers and recognition that the children in low-income neighborhoods may need more resources than children in affluent communities.

The cornerstone of the group, according to the petition, will be advocating for a “great, ‘matter-of-right’ neighborhood public schools in every community.”

Some might read that as a veiled jab at charter schools — especially coming from Frumin, who has questioned whether charters’ rapid growth is helping accelerate the decline of neighborhood schools, especially in poorer parts of the city.

But Frumin said that the new group is not against charter schools so much as it is for the traditional school system. Parents shouldn’t have to play the lottery to be assured a decent education, he added.

“Real choice is when you have a matter-of-right choice and you choose something else,” he said.

The petition, meant mostly to gauge interest from like-minded parents, has garnered signatures from 83 people. One of them is Chris Sondreal, the parent of a 3-year-old preschooler at Francis-Stevens Education Campus.

“My perspective really is as a parent, we don’t really have a voice or a place at the table among all of the various agencies” that oversee education in the District, Sondreal said. “If parents can come together and define our issues, go before these agencies as a unified voice, we may have more success.”

Emma Brown writes about D.C. education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.
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