Before you can clean a dirty fish tank, you have to relocate the fish.
And for the students Janelle Wood serves, the public education system is a dirty fish tank, she says. Wood is the founder and CEO of Black Mothers Forums (BMF), an organization starting a network of micro schools in Arizona.
The micro schools combine grades (K-1, 2-4, 5-8), boast of a 5:1 student/teacher ratio and offer personalized instruction.
This method is successful because teachers have time to get to know each of their students.
“It’s difficult to build relationships with students when you have 30 kids in a classroom,” said Ja-Queese Dightmon, director of curriculum and programing for BMF. “With 10 students, you really learn their strengths, differences and preferences, including who their friends are and what really gets them excited about learning.”
The network of micro schools currently serves over 40 students.
According to EdChoice, micro schools are a reimagining of the one-room schoolhouse and can be public, charter, Christian or completely independent. Approximately 1-2 million U.S. children attend a micro school full time.
Tuition-paying families at BMF’s Arizona schools now benefit from Arizona’s education savings accounts (ESAs). Wood fought for ESAs in Arizona in 2021, a program current Gov. Katie Hobbs is threatening to undo.
“Our children deserve [an] opportunity, their parents, their mothers, deserve an opportunity to find a place where those children are safe and supported,” Wood said.
As previously reported by The Lion, data shows that low-income students often attend the poorest performing public schools. As a result, flexible education funding is a huge boost to these students.
Pastor Drew Anderson, who advocated with Wood for Arizona’s ESAs, painted school choice as a universal issue.
“We are in a battle not of Republicans, not of Democrats, but we are in a battle for young souls,” Anderson said at a rally. “As a registered democrat I support this bill, as a registered democrat I support anybody who supports making sure all minority children are given an opportunity to be properly educated.
“School Choice is no longer something that can be on the back-burner.”