Each week on the San Antonio Mom Blogs’ Facebook page a Fan of the Week is selected based upon their amount of interaction on the page. This week’s featured fan and San Antonio Mom Blogger is Inga Cotton. Want to be selected as a Fan of the Week? Like San Antonio Mom Blogs on Facebook and participate!
You can call her a charter school advocate but “activist” is also a completely appropriate word to use when describing San Antonio mom blogger Inga Cotton. Ever since she and her husband decided they needed to move away from a beloved historic San Antonio neighborhood in search of better school options for their children, she’s become a huge champion for the charter school cause. Inga believes that high-quality public education should be available to all children, regardless of where they live. On her blog, SACharterMoms.com Inga educates the public about charter schools and she shares valuable information and updates about the status of charter schools applying to open in Texas.
Your blog, San Antonio Charter Moms, is an incredible resource for San Antonio and Texas parents. For those unfamiliar with the idea of charter schools, please share your elevator pitch on what they are and why they’re important.
Charter schools are tuition-free, public schools. They have open enrollment: you don’t have to live in a particular attendance zone, and there are no criteria for race, income, or ability. The most exciting part is how charter schools offer many different learning models: accelerated learning, college prep, language immersion, blended learning, classical great books education, Montessori, fine arts, etc.
What should parents consider when looking at the various charter schools? How far in advance should students apply to charter schools to be considered for admission?
Parents have the best incentive (love!) to find the right schools for their children; they just need to be empowered with information. The first step is to do some online research: look at test scores, read comments on message boards, etc. Then, try to attend an information session at the school. After that, ask to tour the school and visit a classroom. It’s amazing how different a kindergarten classroom can be from one school to another.
Navigating the charter school application process can be tricky. Families Empowered, a non-profit in Houston, recommends applying to three or more charter schools to make sure you get into one of your favorites.
Most charter schools have an enrollment period in the spring, similar to private schools. Some charter schools have application deadlines as early as the end of January. Depending on the school, you can apply in person at the office or at a parents meeting, or apply online. The application is not scary — just your basic facts — not like a college application or magnet school application.
If the charter school gets applications from more students than it has room for, then the school will hold a lottery to randomly select which students get in. If you’ve seen the movies “Won’t Back Down” or “Waiting for ‘Superman” then you know how a lottery works. Students who don’t make the lottery go on a waiting list. There are tens of thousands of children on charter school waiting lists in Texas right now.
In San Antonio, there are several new-to-the-city charter schools that have not declared their enrollment periods yet. The best way to keep up with these schools is to join the interest lists so you’ll be among the first to find out when to apply. Generally, a charter school in its first year in a new city does not have to hold a lottery: many parents choose to wait and see what the school is like, but then have a hard time getting in later.
Finally, some good news: If one sibling gets in, then all the siblings get in. Also, at most schools, employees’ kids get in, so watch those job postings.
In addition to following your blog, how can parents get involved in bringing more charter schools to San Antonio?
The most immediate way to get involved is to join the interest lists for the schools that are coming to San Antonio soon. That’s the best way to stay current with information meetings and enrollment periods.
After that, talk to your friends about charter schools. There are a lot of myths out there (hidden costs, selective admission — false!) but word of mouth is the most powerful and credible way to spread the truth.
A fun way to learn more about charter schools would be to invite your friends for a DVD-watching party with a school choice movie like “Won’t Back Down” or “Waiting for Superman.” Not dry or boring –those movies both made me cry.
There are many opportunities for grassroots political activity, whether at the state legislature, which is considering education reform bills this session, or at the State Board of Education, which will review another set of charter school applications this year.
The most important thing you can do in the long run is to be an empowered parent. Find the very best schools for your kids, and then supplement that by finding opportunities for learning in everything that you do as a family.
You’re a mom, a lawyer, and a blogger. What are some of your other loves and passions?
It’s the people in my life that make it special. My husband and I like to watch TV together (usually dramas or action movies) and going out for date nights (favorites: Alamo Drafthouse, Texas Land & Cattle, or the occasional splurge at Bohanan’s). We all sit down for a home-cooked family dinner almost every night, often with veggies from the farmers’ market and herbs from the garden. My kids and I love to play outside, either in the backyard or at the playground, the botanical garden, or the zoo. I like museums, classical music, and theater. When I have quiet time, I read.
What are three of your favorite blogs to read and why?
Red, White & Grew: Homeschool resources are great for enrichment, even if your kids attend school during the day. Homeschoolers are the ultimate in empowered parenting.
Cowgirl Gourmet: My kids come with me to the Quarry farmers’ market, where they read the signs and help me count out the money. The blog has recipe ideas and tips about what’s in season.
#pistolwears: Because that little girl has style.
Colleen, thank you for this opportunity to share more about SACharterMoms.com.