June 20, 2011: The California Charter Schools Association is excited to announce that Corri Tate Ravare will be leading Families That Can, its statewide organization of charter school families. Families That Can partners with California's charter schools to offer free parent trainings on site, connect schools with their elected representatives and provide advocacy and grassroots organizing support, working to support parents to be effective advocates for their children and their schools.
Ravare brings a wealth of experience to the job, most recently having served as president of Inner City Education Foundation (ICEF) Public Schools, a network of 15 high-performing charter schools serving 4,600 students in south Los Angeles. The non-profit organization's goal is to develop and manage charter schools that prepare minority students to attend and compete academically at the top colleges and universities in the nation. Prior to joining ICEF in 2004, Ravare worked for Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member Genethia Hudley-Hayes and was a facilitator with LEARN, a district-wide education reform effort. She was also part of the founding team for Families That Can in 2007, mobilizing parents to stop $18 million in proposed cuts to charter school facilities funding. Watch Corri's video blog, and rread this interview to learn more.
How did you get involved in working in education and advocacy? What was the path that lead you to this point in your life?
I started out in education though a wonderful opportunity called the John Gardner Fellowship that encourages select graduates from UC Berkeley and Stanford to pursue a life of public service. As a first-generation college student, education and advocacy was personally important to me, so my fellowship led me to work for LAUSD on its early reform efforts and subsequently as a Field Deputy for the former School Board President. When I had my own children, I learned about public charter schools. I've been actively involved in charter education as a parent, employee and advocate for 12 years.
What is your vision for Families That Can?
I want Families That Can to become the premier charter school grassroots advocacy organization, recognized nationally for successfully empowering charter school families. FTC will fulfill this vision by focusing on three main goals: 1) developing strong relationships with charter school principals and directors and community leaders to communicate the value and benefits of family engagement, 2) fostering public appreciation of charter schools' contribution to increasing student achievement and, 3) educating and organizing charter school families on local and statewide issues that strengthen or threaten our access to the programs, facilities, and resources needed to provide a high quality public education.
From your perspective as a former school leader with ICEF, what are the benefits to charter schools of partnering with FTC to do parent trainings and grassroots work?
Parents are an extremely important constituency group that can get the attention of elected officials and decision-makers in a way that charter school leaders cannot. Parents and guardians are not an interest group. They are our students' first teachers and primary advocates. Board members, state representatives and other leaders won't ignore the voice of a charter parent who can clearly and passionately tell their story. However, developing a group of powerful parent leaders who can represent their opinions and our collective concerns takes time and skill. The FTC team has the skill and the focus to organize the energy and intelligence of our families and use this powerful resource to help solve the challenges that impact all charter schools.
What do you see as the role that parents will play in improving California's public schools?
The mission of Families That Can is to educate, empower and mobilize parents and families to hold our leaders accountable for ensuring every child has access to a high-quality public education. Parents provide the urgency to create the kind of educational system we want-- now! We need empowered parents to challenge the practices and patterns that have created the educational system with which we are all dissatisfied.
Why is it important for CCSA to do this work?
CCSA has made tremendous progress over the years on behalf of its members and the students we serve. The Association is on the leading edge of school accountability and they have pushed hard to support policies around facilities, charter renewal and equitable funding that are necessary for charter schools to continue to be successful. We have enjoyed many important incremental victories, due in large part to the strength of our Association, but to help prevent backsliding and major set-backs, we have to have a movement orientation to our organizing and advocacy. Shifts in the core values that shape policy take place through social movements that involve the people who are most affected by them. In our case, that is our charter school families and the students they serve.