08/10/2011 10:32 pm ET Updated Oct 10, 2011

Parents as Partners: Working Together to Support Our Schools

The first thing homebuyers often ask their realtor is, "What are the schools like?" That's because a successful school indicates more than just a solid education for the children it serves -- it also means a strong community and a safe neighborhood. Even if you aren't a parent yourself, a strong public education system is essential to the success of our city. Schools are where we lay the foundation for the future, and we want that future to be one where all Angelenos have the opportunity to thrive.

One of the building blocks of an effective public school system is a close connection between schools, communities, and families. Today, I had the opportunity to participate in a conversation with community members hosted by Families in Schools (FIS), a non-profit group committed to strengthening the critical school-community-family triangle. As a long-time supporter of parent engagement and parent choice, I applaud the pioneering work of FIS. A leader in this field, they have implemented parent involvement programs that yield real results. FIS is helping us to achieve our goal of a thriving public education system.

As we all know, a parent is a child's first teacher. When a school system values and respects this relationship and welcomes parents as equal partners in their child's education, we are all better able to nurture a lifelong love of learning and achievement. Since 2001, FIS has offered a continuum of programs from pre-K to high school, enabling parents to do just that: aid in the learning process, advocate for their child's education, and work as allies with their public schools.

Building a strong city begins in our schools, but we need our communities to support them and be invested in their success. The bottom line is that when schools produce low-test scores and high dropout rates, we are setting ourselves up for high unemployment and low productivity, not to mention elevated crime rates and a whole host of societal ills. By creating strong communities around our schools, we can anchor our neighborhoods in a culture of achievement from kindergarten to college and beyond.

One day, I hope realtors will say with confidence that every home in Los Angeles -- from the East Valley to the South Bay -- is near a good school, in a safe neighborhood, and part of a strong community.