Op-Ed: Georgia Politicians Reject Educational Freedom At Their Own Peril | Real Clear Policy

Op-Ed: Georgia Politicians Reject Educational Freedom At Their Own Peril | Real Clear Policy

In The News

Op-Ed: Georgia Politicians Reject Educational Freedom At Their Own Peril | Real Clear Policy

Tuesday, March 15, was a sad day for kids in Georgia.

That’s the day when the Georgia Senate voted down a bill to create Promise Scholarships. Eight Republicans joined all Democrats in rejecting the scholarships, which would have offered families up to $6,000 a year for approved education expenses. Another six Republicans chose to abstain from voting, knowing that doing so would kill the bill.

Promise Scholarships would step far beyond a typical voucher by fully putting parents in the driver’s seat when it comes to their child’s education. The funds could have been used for private-school tuition, but there would have been added flexibility depending on each family’s unique needs, extending to paying for things like tutoring, specialized therapies, or homeschool co-ops.

It’s unjust that the best interests of Georgia’s schoolchildren have once again fallen prey to politics and special-interest groups. While some lawmakers were twisting arms to get votes to pass gambling programs to benefit a handful of people, others were voting “no” on Promise Scholarships that would allow tens of thousands of kids to flourish.

Simply put, a vote against S.B. 601 was a vote against the many Georgia families who desperately need help. Particularly as our state emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic where so many students are left behind, it’s unconscionable that we would deny this lifeline to families.

What’s also unconscionable is why politicians would reject educational freedom given that the vast majority of Georgians want it.

A recent poll from GeorgiaCAN found that 72% of respondents favor “expanding educational options by allowing a child’s state education dollars to follow that student to the school that best fits their needs, whether that is public, private, magnet, charter, virtual, or homeschool.” Support cut across party lines, with 79% of Republicans in favor, 78% of Independents, and 64% of Democrats.

Do Georgians favor the idea of Promise Scholarships? That same GeorgiaCAN poll put support for Promise Scholarships at 59%. Public school parents voiced even stronger support, with 67% in favor.

Those results are in line with other recent polling showing that between two-thirds and three-fourths of Georgians support the core ideas of educational opportunity for all students, not just those blessed with a high income or who live in the right zip code. The bottom line is that in our era of sordid political discourse and deep divides between the parties, there are few issues that garner as much bi-partisan support as educational opportunity and equity.

One of the attributes that makes Georgia a great place to live — and a great place to relocate to from other areas of the country — is our diverse and growing set of educational options. It’s the 21st century, and our policymakers recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach no longer works, least of all when it comes to the education of our children.

But while we’ve had important progress over the last few years, we need to keep moving forward. Traditional public schools will remain the right option for most families, but a swiftly growing number of families are choosing alternatives — public charter schools, private schools, or homeschools. As a state, our objective must be to support students and families in the educational environment that works best for them. Our priority must be funding student education, not systems of education that aren’t meeting the needs of every child in our state.

That’s precisely why we need the flexibility provided by Promise Scholarships. Passing Promise Scholarships would have put Georgia at the forefront nationally of giving all children the opportunity for a great education. And politicians running for office this year would be wise to pay attention. For evidence, look no further than Virginia’s recent gubernatorial election, when now Gov. Glenn Youngkin swept into office on a platform of empowering parents.

Remember, the midterm elections are just around the corner: All 56 state Senate and 180 state House seats up for grabs. Meanwhile, parents are clamoring for educational options like never before.

The question is, will Georgia politicians listen? The answer appears to be a resounding no.

Originally Posted In Real Clear Policy

Op-Ed: Georgia Politicians Reject Educational Freedom At Their Own Peril | Real Clear Policy

Op-Ed: Georgia Politicians Reject Educational Freedom At Their Own Peril | The Georgia Virtue

In The News

Op-Ed: Georgia Politicians Reject Educational Freedom At Their Own Peril | The Georgia Virtue

Tuesday, March 15, was a sad day for kids in Georgia.

That’s the day when the Georgia Senate voted down a bill to create Promise Scholarships. Eight Republicans joined all Democrats in rejecting the scholarships, which would have offered families up to $6,000 a year for approved education expenses. Another six Republicans chose to abstain from voting, knowing that doing so would kill the bill.

Promise Scholarships would step far beyond a typical voucher by fully putting parents in the driver’s seat when it comes to their child’s education. The funds could have been used for private-school tuition, but there would have been added flexibility depending on each family’s unique needs, extending to paying for things like tutoring, specialized therapies, or homeschool co-ops.

It’s unjust that the best interests of Georgia’s schoolchildren have once again fallen prey to politics and special-interest groups. While some lawmakers were twisting arms to get votes to pass gambling programs to benefit a handful of people, others were voting “no” on Promise Scholarships that would allow tens of thousands of kids to flourish.

Simply put, a vote against S.B. 601 was a vote against the many Georgia families who desperately need help. Particularly as our state emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic where so many students are left behind, it’s unconscionable that we would deny this lifeline to families.

What’s also unconscionable is why politicians would reject educational freedom given that the vast majority of Georgians want it.

A recent poll from GeorgiaCAN found that 72% of respondents favor “expanding educational options by allowing a child’s state education dollars to follow that student to the school that best fits their needs, whether that is public, private, magnet, charter, virtual, or homeschool.” Support cut across party lines, with 79% of Republicans in favor, 78% of Independents, and 64% of Democrats.

Do Georgians favor the idea of Promise Scholarships? That same GeorgiaCAN poll put support for Promise Scholarships at 59%. Public school parents voiced even stronger support, with 67% in favor.

Those results are in line with other recent polling showing that between two-thirds and three-fourths of Georgians support the core ideas of educational opportunity for all students, not just those blessed with a high income or who live in the right zip code. The bottom line is that in our era of sordid political discourse and deep divides between the parties, there are few issues that garner as much bi-partisan support as educational opportunity and equity.

One of the attributes that makes Georgia a great place to live — and a great place to relocate to from other areas of the country — is our diverse and growing set of educational options. It’s the 21st century, and our policymakers recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach no longer works, least of all when it comes to the education of our children.

But while we’ve had important progress over the last few years, we need to keep moving forward. Traditional public schools will remain the right option for most families, but a swiftly growing number of families are choosing alternatives — public charter schools, private schools, or homeschools. As a state, our objective must be to support students and families in the educational environment that works best for them. Our priority must be funding student education, not systems of education that aren’t meeting the needs of every child in our state.

That’s precisely why we need the flexibility provided by Promise Scholarships. Passing Promise Scholarships would have put Georgia at the forefront nationally of giving all children the opportunity for a great education. And politicians running for office this year would be wise to pay attention. For evidence, look no further than Virginia’s recent gubernatorial election, when now Gov. Glenn Youngkin swept into office on a platform of empowering parents.

Remember, the midterm elections are just around the corner: All 56 state Senate and 180 state House seats up for grabs. Meanwhile, parents are clamoring for educational options like never before.

The question is, will Georgia politicians listen? The answer appears to be a resounding no.

Originally Posted In The Georgia Virtue

Op-Ed: Georgia Politicians Reject Educational Freedom At Their Own Peril | Real Clear Policy

Georgia Senate kills school-choice bill | The Center Square

In The News

Georgia Senate kills school-choice bill | The Center Square

The Georgia Senate has killed a bill that would have allowed Georgians to put taxpayer money toward the cost of private school tuition.

Senate Bill 601, the Georgia Educational Freedom Act, would have created state-funded Promise Scholarships of up to $6,000 a year. Families of the roughly 1.7 million K-12 students in Georgia could use the money for private school tuition and other education expenses, such as tutoring and homeschool curriculum.

The measure failed Tuesday by a 29-20 vote. Seven senators did not cast ballots

Buzz Brockway, vice president of the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO), called the defeat of the bill “a sad day for kids in Georgia.”

 

“It’s disappointing that the best interests of Georgia’s schoolchildren have once again fallen prey to politics and special-interest groups,” Brockway said in a statement. “While lawmakers will soon return to their relatively safe districts and jobs, tens of thousands of Georgia kids will be left – once again – without access to the options that would let them flourish.

“Simply put, a vote against S.B. 601 was a vote against the many Georgia families who desperately need help,” Brockway said. “Particularly as our state emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic where so many students are left behind, it’s unconscionable that we would deny this lifeline to families.”

Promise Scholarships would help adoptive families like mine | Gwinnett Daily Post

Promise Scholarships would help adoptive families like mine | Gwinnett Daily Post

In The News

Promise Scholarships would help adoptive families like mine | Gwinnett Daily Post

The life of an adoptive parent is tough in normal times, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated those challenges. Even so, our family wouldn’t trade the adoption life for anything.

The trouble is, not everyone sees or acknowledges the struggles that adoptive families face. That means we often don’t have access to the type of resources that would best help our adopted or foster kids. That’s particularly true in the world of education.

Our adopted son, Joshua, has been in upwards of 20 schools during his educational journey. Joshua suffers from dyslexia and dysgraphia. He has experienced trauma, neglect and abuse that have also contributed to his learning challenges.

The local public school simply hasn’t been a great fit for Joshua. The school flagged him for reading challenges in the first grade but never put interventions in place because he didn’t have a parent advocate. Though Joshua was in the third grade when we adopted him, he couldn’t read even at a basic level.

The help Joshua truly needed came from outside the classroom in the form of a local private tutor who specialized in dyslexic learners. That avenue helped Joshua to thrive, growing from a kindergarten to second-grade reading level. Unfortunately, the arrival of the pandemic in spring of 2020 ended his access to that tutoring.

The pandemic also worsened his experience in public school. His academics have become a train wreck, and emotionally he is a shell of his former self. His teachers are doing the best they can, but Joshua needs alternatives. The last straw for us came when the administration at our school determined that Joshua was on a non-college track and gave him schoolwork several grade-levels below his abilities.

That’s when we decided to move him to a homeschool co-op in November. At the time, there were many gaps in his learning, and he was falling behind.

There is an urgency to Joshua’s situation, and the situation of countless other adoptive and foster kids across Georgia. We’re losing more and more time as the years pass. Joshua is a smart, bright child, but he can’t advance the way he needs to right now because he doesn’t have the necessary resources.

The solution we need are Promise Scholarships. Legislation authorizing these accounts has been introduced in the Georgia General Assembly in the form of House Bill 999, House Bill 60 and Senate Bill 601. These bills would give qualifying families $6,000 a year to spend on nonpublic education options.

Unlike other programs, a Promise Scholarship would allow my family to use funds for a variety of educational expenses, not just private school tuition. That includes specialized tutoring for dyslexic learners that would benefit Joshua greatly. Contrary to popular belief, homeschooling is not free. Promise Scholarships would also give a financial lifeline to families like mine to make home education work better for our kids.

It’s time for Georgia to act. Twenty-three other states have recently passed legislation to create or expand educational opportunity programs due to learning losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We support the traditional public school system. For most parents, public schools are the right choice. But we don’t live in a one-size-fits-all reality anymore when it comes to education. School options should be as diverse as the individual needs of students. For many families like mine, alternatives to the public schools are what’s best for students. It’s time to prioritize the needs of our most vulnerable students and pass Promise Scholarships.

Gina McCarn lives in Norcross with her husband Phil and their five children.

Originally Posted in the Gwinnett Daily Post

 

Op-Ed: Georgia Politicians Reject Educational Freedom At Their Own Peril | Real Clear Policy

Education advocate: Rural Georgia families need Promise Scholarships

In The News

Education advocate: Rural Georgia families need Promise Scholarships

Rural families in Georgia, like mine, don’t always have access to educational options. Promise Scholarships would fix this inequity.

My family moved to Burke County six years ago. My husband and I have two children, both with Individualized Education Plans for special needs. My daughter has dyslexia and dysgraphia, while my son has mild autism, Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, dyslexia and severe dysgraphia.

For the past five years, I’ve been fighting for my children every single day in the local public school system. Unfortunately, children in Burke County with special needs don’t always have access to the help they desperately need.

I began my fight by advocating on behalf of my daughter. Although she had an IEP, she continued to fall behind in reading and writing. I was able to convince the school district to purchase the Barton Reading Program for my daughter. I wanted all students with reading challenges to have access to the program. When this program wasn’t implemented with fidelity, she was able to access tutoring that would support her needs. She remains in the public school but only because we have advocated every step of the way. 

The story with my son has been more challenging. He would routinely come home from school with tears in his eyes, saying the school wasn’t treating him fairly. In digging more, I discovered they were not implementing his IEP as written but were putting pressure on my son to perform outside of the accommodations that were agreed upon. It caused a lot of meltdowns and angst.

The situation eventually became so severe that he began self-harm. That progression broke my heart because he is a good kid. He’s not aggressive. He’s not violent. But the pressures the school system put on him caused him to hurt himself.

For his own safety, we decided that he needed to be homeschooled. But what many people don’t realize is that home education is anything but cheap. My son has so many needs that we simply can’t pay for. He requires specialized therapies that our budget won’t allow for right now.

That’s where Promise Scholarships come in. These accounts would provide up to $6,000 a year for families like mine to devote to a flexible menu of education options, such as occupational, speech or other therapies for special needs, tutoring assistance or homeschool co-ops that would help my son socialize and connect with other young people his age. Traditional vouchers that are available in Georgia right now wouldn’t work for our situation. Promise Scholarships would. I think many rural families are in the same boat.

 

It’s time for Georgia’s General Assembly to pass this legislation. Many other states have recently expanded school choice options to help families who have struggled during the pandemic with learning loss. We can’t afford to wait any longer.

There are so many other families like mine in Burke County. We basically have no school choice here, as the only private schools around do not have special educators or services and our closest charter school is 35 minutes away. Home education is our best option so that we can tailor an education to the unique needs of our children. Promise Scholarships would provide the type of resources to ensure that our children are not left behind.

Op-Ed: Georgia Politicians Reject Educational Freedom At Their Own Peril | Real Clear Policy

Opponents of school choice in Georgia Senate exercise it in their own families | The Lion

In The News

Opponents of school choice in Georgia Senate exercise it in their own families | The Lion

Georgia lawmaker Jodi Lott has a quick and easy answer for why she supports school choice.

“Because it already exists,” the Republican state representative told The Lion. “School choice exists every single day for the wealthy. Sadly, most Democrats and some Republicans are fighting to stop the less fortunate from having those same options.”…

The Georgia Center for Opportunity, a nonprofit that promotes school choice, hailed a Senate committee’s approval of SB 601 on Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, members of both political parties have a track record of practicing ‘choice for me but not for thee’ — sending their own kids to private schools while denying that same access to lower-income families,” Buzz Brockway, vice president of public policy at GCO, said in a statement to The Lion. “It’s sad but true. The bottom line is that underserved kids are suffering because they don’t have access to the same opportunities available to wealthier kids. Programs like Promise Scholarships would break down those barriers and create better equity in education.”