Education designed for everyone and every learning need

Education designed for everyone and every learning need

Education designed for everyone and every learning need

Every day we are greeted by options—from the many products available through local grocery stores to the millions of apps available on smartphones. So, why would we expect anything different in education?

As Georgia’s schoolchildren head back to class this month, it’s a question worth pondering: Should education be a one-size-fits-all issue? For many students, their locally zoned and assigned school is indeed the best option. But other families need alternative options to help their children succeed.

 

Students in poverty 

Think of students like those in Atlanta’s 30314 zip code, one of the poorest and most crime-ridden areas in the country.

This small slice of Atlanta accounts for six out of every 10 murders in the city. In just this one ZIP Code alone, about 40 percent of people live below the poverty line. And the median household income is just $25,000 a year.

While we all want to see public schools improve in this area, that cause will take years if not decades. Meanwhile, more and more students will fall behind and, in many cases, into a life of crime.

For students in the 30314, we can’t afford to wait another day, another week, another month, or another year. They need options right now—options like Bright Futures Academy, a school specifically designed to give kids a solid shot at getting the good education they need to thrive in life and succeed as adults.

 

Students with special needs

Or take the example of students with special needs. In many instances, local schools are ill-equipped to handle the unique needs of these students. That was certainly the case for Cammie Alkire and her daughter, Savannah, who has had severe learning disabilities from an early age.

Cammie calls Savannah “her million-dollar child” because that’s how all of the medical care and therapies have cost over the years.

Although the Alkires support the local public school system (Cammie is a graduate of Forsyth County Public Schools), they weren’t willing to subject Savannah to another year of bullying in order to qualify for Georgia’s Special Needs Scholarship.

Today, Savannah is enrolled in a small private Christian school that’s meeting her unique needs. But the Alkires struggle each month to meet the cost of her care entirely on their own.

“These are the kids who fall through the cracks. They get bullied. They turn out to be cutters. They are emotionally and mentally struggling, but not screaming loud enough to hear. And our government refuses to extend any type of financial help to these parents,” Cammie shared with us.

 

A way forward

Every child is different. That’s why we come alongside families to support the best possible choices for their children, rather than pigeonhole them into only one choice.

Learn more about what you can do.

Join our Georgia Parent’s Alliance on Facebook for updates and opportunities to serve.
Successes During the 2019 Legislative Session

Successes During the 2019 Legislative Session

As the dust settles on another Georgia legislative session, we are pleased to report that the overall results for bills that GCO worked on to achieve passage were positive and encouraging.

 

Education Opportunities Expand Once Again

For starters, in the education arena we collaborated with key legislators to put into action House Bill 787, which had been approved by the legislature in the previous session. This new law creates equitable facilities funding for charter schools—allowing them to receive funds for their facilities on par with those given to traditional public schools.

 

Job Licensing Reform

On the employment front, our team successfully worked to pass a key piece of occupational licensing reform legislation. Now, people who get behind on their student loan payments won’t risk losing their occupational licensing—helping to ensure that more Georgians will be able to get a good job and keep it after completing their education.

 

Removing The Welfare Cliff of Healthcare

On welfare reform, we worked with Governor Brian Kemp’s administration to move forward healthcare waivers for Georgia. This crucial step toward full welfare reform would remove built-in benefit cliffs while adding work requirements for public assistance. Ultimately, this helps our fellow Georgians break free from governmental dependency and lead renewed lives of dignity and purpose.

 

We Are Just Getting Started

While we are proud of these successes, there’s still much work to be done in the next legislative session, particularly in the educational arena. Unfortunately, lawmakers fell short of passing Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs) this year. However, the good news is that we came closer than ever to success—and we’re optimistic that ESAs will become a reality next year. In fact, the high level of co-sponsor support from Governor Kemp’s floor leaders signals that this important issue will likely return for consideration in the next legislative session.

When it comes to ESAs, the stakes are high for thousands of Georgia students and their families. Not only would ESAs help parents like Katie Gonzalez—a mother of seven adopted children, including six with special needs—they would offer much-needed flexibility and assistance to students from low-income families, those adopted from foster care, children of active duty military stationed in Georgia, students with an Individualized Education Program, and those with a documented history of being bullied.

 

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead to 2020, GCO will continue to work toward implementing common-sense reforms on not just ESAs, but also in welfare and occupational licensing to ensure that every Georgian has the opportunity to flourish through a great education, steady employment, and healthy family life. The bottom line is that we are optimistic that the legislative successes coming out of the 2019 session will translate into passage of more key legislation next year.

Lt. Gov. Duncan wants to provide more educational options for Georgia students

Lt. Gov. Duncan wants to provide more educational options for Georgia students

This week marks National School Choice Week, a program that began in 2011 and has rapidly grown across the country highlighting the benefits and need for more school choice options. Lt. Gov. Duncan is leading the state’s celebration at Atlanta Youth Acadamy in Southeast Atlanta by talking with students and parents yesterday about the importance of education, and how remaining focused on expanding school choice opportunities to students statewide is one of his top priorities.

“One of the most important things I can do every day as Lt. Gov. is remember one of the best gifts we can give a child in this state is a quality k-12 education,” stated Lt. Gov. Duncan as he spoke with a classroom of fifth graders and parents. “I want parents to know that and want them to see when we make laws, or adjust things in the laws, and create new policies we realize it is centered around the kids.”

The school is located near the federal prison, and the students’ median household income is about $23,000 a year. Fighting to overcome the neighborhood statistics, 62 percent of the students participate in Georgia’s tax credit scholarship program, and 100 percent of the students have graduated and gone on to postsecondary education.

The tax credit scholarship program has been wildly successful reaching the program’s cap within a matter of days for consecutive years. Lawmakers expanded the program last year by doubling the cap to $100 million starting in 2019.

A quality education is key. It provides a primary path for breaking cycles of poverty. GCO has played a crucial role in bringing real educational choice to upwards of 250,000 students and counting through Tax-Credit Scholarships, Special Needs Scholarships, and charter schools. As we move forward in the legislative session, we will continue to fight to expand Georgia’s current programs and to create education opportunity by pushing for the adoption of Education Scholarship Accounts.

Our work isn’t done until all of Georgia’s children can access the educational options that allow them to achieve the American Dream.

Results are in: Georgians want school choice

Results are in: Georgians want school choice

The mandate from Georgia voters is clear—by an overwhelming margin, they want lawmakers in the General Assembly to pass legislation expanding school choice in 2019. That’s the finding of a new poll released by the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO).

The survey found that nearly seven-in-ten (67 percent) voters say it’s important for the state legislature to enact policies that expand school choice in the next legislative session, and that support extends across party, racial, and geographic lines. Of all school choice measures available in Georgia, the Tax Credit Scholarship Program garnered the most support.

Underscoring the bipartisan nature of school choice, the survey found strong support for school choice regardless of political affiliation—75 percent of Republicans, 65 percent of Independents, and 62 percent of Democrats. Support is strong across racial and geographic lines as well: 70 percent of African-American voters and 66 percent of white voters support school choice, while voters in Augusta (76 percent), Atlanta (68 percent), and Savannah (65 percent) are also supportive.

These new survey results come on the heels of the General Assembly’s move this year to expand the Tax Credit Scholarship Program to serve tens of thousands of additional students in need of options. In 2019, lawmakers could take up legislation to make Georgia the seventh state to enact Education Savings Accounts, an innovative way for parents to pay for the education their children need.

With the 2019 session of the General Assembly a few months away, elected officials would be wise to pay attention to the voices of more than two-thirds of Georgia’s likely voters—and voice their support for school choice, too!

GCO poll: Nearly 70 percent of Georgia voters want the legislature to pass school choice legislation in 2019  

GCO poll: Nearly 70 percent of Georgia voters want the legislature to pass school choice legislation in 2019  

Peachtree Corners—A new poll released by the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) has found that a significant majority of likely Georgia voters—to the tune of 68 percent—support school choice for families across the state.

Ahead of the 2019 legislative session, nearly seven-in-ten (67 percent) voters say it’s important for the state legislature to enact policies that expand school choice in the next legislative session, and that support extends across party, racial, and geographic lines. Of all school choice measures available in Georgia, the Tax Credit Scholarship Program garnered the most support.

Underscoring the bipartisan nature of school choice, the survey found strong support for school choice regardless of political affiliation—75 percent of Republicans, 65 percent of Independents, and 62 percent of Democrats. Support is strong across racial and geographic lines as well: 70 percent of African-American voters and 66 percent of white voters support school choice, while voters in Augusta (76 percent), Atlanta (68 percent), and Savannah (65 percent) are also supportive.

“School choice has long been, and continues to be, a winning issue,” said Randy Hicks, GCO’s president and CEO. “No matter who’s leading under the Gold Dome in 2019, Georgians recognize its importance for creating a better tomorrow for every child, but particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds who need help the most.”

The survey was conducted by WPA Intelligence. Interviews were collected from September 19-23 among over 600 likely voters in Georgia. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percent.

Get more details about the poll here: GCO Poll Memo

Poll: School choice growing in popularity

Poll: School choice growing in popularity

new poll from Education Next shows a surge in support for educational choice programs nationwide. Across the board, support is up for publicly funded school-choice scholarships, tax-credit scholarships, and public charter schools.

And not only is public support for school choice on the rise, it has jumped from plurality to majority support on several key data points:

  • Support for publicly funded school-choice scholarships jumped from 45% in 2017 to 54% in 2018. More parents than ever support these scholarships—61%, up from 52% in 2017.
  • While 43% support school-choice scholarships for low-income students, 56% of African American and 62% of Hispanic respondents favor them.
  • Hispanic families in particular see the benefits of educational choice, with support for publicly funded school-choice scholarships increasing from 49% in 2017 to 67% in 2018.

Other insights:

  • Support for public charter schools increased from 39% in 2017 to 44% in 2018.
  • Opposition to publicly funded school-choice scholarships has decreased 13 percentage points since 2016, from 44% to 31% today.

While these results are good news for school-choice proponents nationwide, here in Georgia we continue to be a trendsetter in educational opportunity—ranking seventh nationally thanks to a series of school-choice laws passed since 2008, including the Tax Credit Scholarship Program and the Special Needs Scholarship Program.

All told, Georgia’s school choice programs have delivered impressive results—with more than 17,000 students benefitting in the 2016-17 school year, including 13,600 children participating in the tax credit scholarship program and 4,000 receiving tuition assistance through the Special Needs Scholarship Program.

And these programs are popular across key demographics such as political affiliation, age, and race. In Georgia, 84% of Republicans, 67% of Independents, and 55% of Democrats support school choice. Among Millennials and minorities, support is even stronger—and growing—with 74% of Latinos, 72% of African Americans, and 75% of Millennials in favor.

Even though most students will continue to be educated in traditional public schools, it’s nice to see the latest Education Next poll confirm nationally what we already know here in Georgia:  School-choice options empower parents to make the best educational decisions for their children and give them the best shot to live a flourishing life.