At a pro-school-choice rally in 2010, she noticed Matthews marching at the very front with parents and students. “That’s when it hit me that this is a civil-rights issue,” she remarks. “This issue affects low-income minority people. Even within public schools, low-income kids are not able to attend school on a wealthy side of the neighborhood. Red tape keeps these poor kids all in one area. It’s segregation.”
Alexandra DeSanctis "I went to about four or five different schools before sixth grade, but as far as I can remember I never did great in school. Whenever I walked into a classroom, teachers would sigh. I got into fights a lot as a student. I failed out of third grade twice,” Denisha Merriweather tells me, explaining her early experience in public school on the east side of Jacksonville, Fla.
"But that very same girl received a standing ovation on the floor of the House of Representatives during President Donald Trump’s joint address on Tuesday, as the president lauded Denisha for becoming the first in her family to graduate from high school and college. And this spring, she will graduate from the University of South Florida with a master’s degree in social work.
"Her experience of Florida’s education system began with several years of struggling through East Jacksonville’s public schools. “My teachers knew the Merriweather name, and they didn’t really expect a lot from me because that’s who I was,” Denisha explains. “My home life was really in shambles, and so I’d lash out. . . . I didn’t feel like there was a reason to try.”
"She has come to believe that the structure of too many public schools makes it exceedingly difficult for children who have grown up in poverty — like all of the students with whom she attended grade school — to escape their situation. “I don’t fault the public schools, and I don’t fault the teachers there,” she notes. “This is the system we’ve made, where all the kids from one really poor neighborhood go to one school together. And that’s a lot of strain on the system, for teachers and administrators to have to figure out how to help all of these different kids, who are dealing with all of this crap at home.' ” . . .