Philanthropy Roundtable recently sat down with Jenny Clark, founder of Love Your School, to discuss how the organization helps families navigate new education options, including public school options, private school options and homeschooling. A 2022 Yass Prize winner, the organization plans to place 50,000 students in the school of their choice by 2025.
The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: Please introduce yourself, the vision and mission of Love Your School.
My name is Jenny Clark, and I am a Phoenix native, mother of five and founder of Love Your School (LYS). LYS has a bold vision for America’s education system: that all students love their school! This means that no child is held back by their income or ZIP code; and every family has knowledge of and access to the best educational options for their children.
When a parent knows that their child’s current school isn’t working, the burden of not knowing what to do next leaves many parents feeling utterly defeated. Our organization’s role is to reverse this defeat and empower parents to take back control of their child’s education through parental engagement and coaching.
While our work often involves an “Empowerment Scholarship,” it can also involve public school options, private options and homeschool. With increased awareness, parents are motivated to take control of their child’s education. Our goal is not to promote certain options over others. Rather, we aim to connect every parent we serve to the solution that best fits their needs, and to provide them the personalized support they need, even if it means supporting them to launch their own option like a co-op or microschool!
Q: What led you to become an “education entrepreneur”?
I decided to homeschool my children after becoming concerned about the lack of quality education options in my area for kids with learning challenges. My boys received speech therapy services through the public school system as preschoolers, where I had a front-row seat to the challenges within the system. It made me feel that my boys’ educational needs could not be met there.
I was a stay-at-home mom with three kids under 6, and my husband was a full-time law student. It was cost-prohibitive for our family to go to a private school at the time or to pay for private therapies.
A few years later, we went back again to the public system for evaluations, where I was told many times that my children were “fine” or that their struggles were simply a “lack of a proper education” due to homeschooling. Ultimately, we pressed the district for independent educational evaluations, which diagnosed my two boys with dyslexia and dysgraphia.
I was shocked when I learned that my family would have qualified for an Education Savings Account (ESA). No one told us. An ESA enabled our family to cover therapies that we could never have afforded during that stage of life because our insurance didn’t cover them.
I started walking other parents through the educational evaluation process, telling them about ESAs, and even finding them tutors and therapists. I launched LYS after the first attempt at universal school choice in Arizona failed back in 2019. I knew how valuable having options had been for my own family, and I was determined to ensure that every family had the same opportunity.
Q: What are some of the greatest challenges you see ahead for the education reform movement in America?
There are three core challenges I see ahead for the education reform movement, especially through my lens as a parent. The first challenge is legislative. While many parents support increased school choice, barriers still exist in the passage of these programs. Parents need to know how to engage in the legislative process, the value of their voice and story and the ways that they can make an impact.
The second is implementation of new choice programs like an ESA. For these programs to grow, parents must know about them, how to use them and ecosystems must be developed around them. Marketing these programs state-wide is essential, along with personalized support so families can decide if the program is right for them. Networks for families are also incredibly important. Regular information sessions, webinars, parent councils and active stakeholder engagement opportunities are important considerations for any state implementing an ESA.
One final challenge is growing the supply of high-quality education service providers and new school options in a deregulated landscape. Ensuring that co-ops, microschools and education service providers can launch quickly and effectively to meet the growing demands of families is crucial. Promoting education entrepreneurship is necessary for the growth and success of choice programs.
Q: What are some of the greatest opportunities for philanthropists to support education entrepreneurship and parental engagement?
One of the reasons our work at LYS is so exciting is that we get to hear about so many amazing new education options that parents and entrepreneurs want to launch and support them. Philanthropists passionate about education and school choice may be interested in a variety of opportunities such as:
- Supporting organizations that are educating parents and building networks of parent support advocates;
- Providing long-term solutions through funding training materials and collateral that can be repurposed and utilized state-wide;
- Helping to connect specialists who can provide personalized support with families who traditionally select public schools based on ease and location;
- Supporting hybrid schools and microschools;
- Cultivating education entrepreneurship and helping entrepreneurs launch new ventures; and
- Funding additional educational support like mobile libraries, sports opportunities and co-education spaces.
Q: Where do you see your organization and the broader school choice movement in the coming years?
Love Your School will always be committed to serving families well and growing our community’s understanding of options, while helping to increase those education options. We plan to continue our successful parent concierge service and active parent engagement, while also growing our webinars, trainings and in-person development of parent leaders.
The entire school choice movement is strengthened not only by passing crucial legislation that empowers families to take control of their child’s education, but also by working together to advance shared objectives with our key partners. We hope our work will continue to be a case study for success in the value of positive, collaborative and engaging messaging and support of parents and entrepreneurs.
Read more about the founding story and the ways in which philanthropists can support expanding quality school choice options by visiting Love Your School.