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A focus on the state legislature and the policies effecting Georgian’s everyday life. 

Buzz Brockway, VP of Policy, is in downtown Atlanta at the state Capitol building, and walks us through the the last day or sine die of the legislative session. 


Our state lawmakers create policies that better the lives of Georgians. Learn more about active legislation and how it translates into everyday life for all of us.

Educating our educators on Senate Bill 47

Educating our educators on Senate Bill 47

Educating our educators on Senate Bill 47

group of students

We have some great news to share! Lawmakers in the Georgia House are likely to take up Senate Bill 47 as soon as today. SB47 makes vital improvements and updates to the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is an important way we can serve Georgia families and the special-needs community, as many of these students have been left behind due to school closures, learning loss, and lack of access to crucial therapies. 

Among other key changes, SB47 would:

  • Expand the program to include a limited list of students with special needs (including autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, and dyslexia) who have a 504 plan and formal diagnosis from a licensed doctor.
  • Allow students who attended a public special needs preschool in Georgia to participate.
  • Allow students with special needs who are adopted from foster care to access the program immediately.
  • Make other updates to the scholarship program in line with the renewed need among families for help due to COVID-19.



Students are not all the same, so their education shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all model. 


Sadly, the Georgia School Board Association is lobbying hard against SB47. The organization recently sent an email to supporters listing a number of objections to the measure and urging people to oppose it.

Here are those objections and our responses from the Georgia Center for Opportunity team:

There is no requirement that a student be re-evaluated to determine the students’ continued needs or eligibility. For example, an elementary student might have an IEP to receive speech therapy that they would not need after a few years.”

This seems like a red herring. It’s unfair to burden both public school systems and parents with constant revaluations in an attempt to catch a handful who no longer warrant an Individualized Learning Plan (IEP) or 504 plan. This would also create a massive burden on schools to evaluate kids who are no longer in the public school system.

The bottom line is that if a child is succeeding in a new environment, that’s a good thing. It doesn’t mean we should take them away from that school and put them back in an environment where they were not succeeding. We must prioritize the needs of individual students and get them the help they need. That standard is even more important for our neighbors in the special-needs community.

“There is no requirement that a private school provide the services in the IEP or 504 plan that the taxpayers are funding them to receive.”

No, but parents aren’t going to send their child to a school (especially if they need to come out of pocket with resources to do so) if the school cannot or is not meeting the child’s needs.

“There is no report to the taxpayers as to whether the students are receiving services or not.”

“Receiving services” is not an indicator of success. Children who are enrolled in public schools are also “receiving services,” but if their families choose to leave based on this scholarship, those services presumably are not meeting their needs. Parents have their children in the school of their choice voluntarily and they aren’t going to choose a school that can’t meet their child’s needs.

“Parents must give up all federal rights under IDEA or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to take the voucher.”

IDEA was something disability advocates had to fight for so that public schools would treat students with special needs the right way. IDEA rights only apply to public schools, so by definition if a child is not in public school, those specific rights do not apply.

This doesn’t mean that these students are being mistreated. In fact, a parent has the ability to leave any private school that isn’t serving their child well, which is currently not the case for public schools. If a child returns to public school at any time, their rights under IDEA are still fully intact. 

An imperfect analogy: You carry insurance on your car in case something happens. Then you move to a large city and can either walk or take the subway everywhere, so you sell the car. Someone might say, “But you gave up your insurance!” No, you gave up your car.

“There has never been an independent evaluation of the voucher program so we have no idea about a number of things including its effectiveness.”

There is literally a report that comes out on the program every year that includes 40 pages or so of information including academic performance data.

Parental satisfaction has been the major measure for accountability for this program and nothing in this bill changes that. That is completely inconsistent with a belief in transparency and accountability for the use of taxpayer dollars.

The issue lands here: Providing quality education to all students should be the goal of our education system. That system must prioritize the needs of individual students and families. When quality education is not accessible to a child — for whatever reason — we must provide options. It is our responsibility to give each child a sense of purpose and belonging as we prepare them for their future.



Aidan’s story: How a private school saved a young man’s life

Aidan’s story: How a private school saved a young man’s life

Aidan’s story: How a private school saved a young man’s life

Aidan's Story

“Every day was truly a dark day.”

That’s how Tiffany Pearce describes life during the hardest weeks of trying to care for her son, Aidan. Diagnosed with bipolar with mania, on top of an earlier diagnosis of autism and sensory integration disorder, Aidan couldn’t do most things we take for granted—everything from communicating his feelings to using the restroom. 

But tragically, that extended to Aidan trying to hurt himself during his manic episodes. To help, Tiffany would try to hold Aidan to prevent injuries. The results from this strong eight-year-old boy were that Tiffany herself would often get injured.

“He was having episodes three to four times a day lasting anywhere from one hour to three or four,” Tiffany says. “With these episodes, it’s like he didn’t know who he was at the time.”

When the manic episode calmed down and Aidan would recover, he would look at the blood on his mother and ask, “Why don’t you move out and leave. I don’t want to hurt you any more.”

Tiffany took her son to a long list of doctors and specialists for help before he was eventually admitted to the Atlanta-based Peaceford Hospital, a behavioral health treatment facility. But even that didn’t help. Aidan continued to struggle. It was all made worse by the fact that Tiffany could not stay with him at night.

“I’ll never forget the time he looked up at me and said, ‘Mommy, I want to be in heaven.’ You just feel completely helpless as a parent at that moment,” says Tiffany. “To hear an eight-year-old say that is devastating.”

Later on, Tiffany waged a battle with the insurance company to move Aidan from Peachford to a residential facility where they would better be able to serve his needs. At the same time, she had to make a choice about where to send the young man to school.



It was the first time his mother heard, “we want Aidan.”

All students deserve the chance to succeed.

But Tiffany soon discovered that not many schools were willing to support a child like Aidan. The local public schools in Cobb County wanted to put him on an EBD (Emotional and Behavioral Disorder) satellite campus, but Aidan’s doctors and therapists said that would have been detrimental to his behavioral and development issues.

Thankfully, there was another option: CORE Community School, a private school in Atlanta. 

“I’ll never forget them saying, ‘We want him. We want Aidan.’ That was the first time I felt hope in a year, because he deserves to be wanted. All kids should feel that. They deserve that,” Tiffany says.

Today, Aidan is thriving at this private school that prioritizes serving students with unique needs and challenges.

“Being at school is the first time in a year and a half that I see Aidan smile,” Tiffany says. “I didn’t think I would see that again. I wondered if this boy with the biggest heart would ever feel like he was worth anything. And he did here.”



Drive-Thru Job Fair Comes to Gwinnett

Drive-Thru Job Fair Comes to Gwinnett

Drive-Thru Job Fair Comes to Gwinnett

job fair

Drive-Thru Job Fair Comes to Gwinnett 

The current pandemic has made a massive impact on America’s workforce and wreaked havoc on certain business sectors. While we’re beginning to see a dip in the number of active COVID-19 cases around the country, parts of the economy are still in desperate need of finding workers. Until recently in-person meetings have been known to be the most effective way of engaging potential job seekers with jobs, but they’re not feasible in today’s environment of social distancing. Instead, organizations like Better Work Gwinnett are finding creative ways – like a drive-thru job fair – to connect businesses with job seekers.

We are excited to announce the Better Work Gwinnett Drive-Thru Job Fair on Thursday, April 1st at the Infinite Energy Center Parking Deck.

This event will connect job seekers with hundreds of full and part time jobs. Businesses will have booths set up around the ramp of the parking garage allowing job seekers to drop off resumes and learn more about each organization. Job seekers will also be able to collect information and engage with potential employers – all from their cars.  

The job fair is a result of a community collaboration among GCO, Goodwill of North Georgia, First Step Staffing, Lawrenceville Response Center, and WorkFaith – all Gwinnett County based organizations. Working together with a common goal of strengthening the community, the Gwinnett Coalition combines local resources to provide training and support services to help job seekers find meaningful work and businesses to gain valuable employees. 

For most people a job is more than a paycheck, but also provides purpose and dignity to everyday life. Unfortunately, there has been a steady rise in unemployment rates in the Gwinnett County area. Gwinnett County’s current unemployment hoovers at about five percent, which is on par with Georgia’s overall unemployment rate of 5.3 percent

“The global pandemic is impacting our neighbors,” said GCO’s Director of the Gwinnett Workforce Initiative, Jace Brooks. “When the pandemic started, Gwinnett County saw thousands of residents out of work, many of them faced housing and food insecurity. A drive-thru job fair will allow job seekers the ability to connect with potential employers while still practicing social distancing and safe health regulations. It’s been great to see local groups working together in such harmony for the good of the community. We know the job fair will be beneficial to our local residents, businesses, and economy.” 

The pandemic has produced a vanishing supply of skilled labor, and the growing local market’s demand is outpacing the supply of workers. Drive-thru job fairs in other areas have been largely successful for filling positions in various industries like, administrative, utilities, manufacturing, and warehouse work. 

To register to participate as a job-seeker, volunteer, or business click here. 




Get Buzz’d At the state Capitol

Get Buzz’d At the state Capitol

Get Buzz'd Blog Header

A focus on the state legislature and the policies effecting Georgian’s everyday life. 

Buzz Brockway, VP of Policy, is in downtown Atlanta at the state Capitol building, and walks us through the proposed changes to The Special Needs Scholarship, occupational licensing, a current protest, and more.


Get Buzz'd - at capitol - March 17 2021

Our state lawmakers create policies that better the lives of Georgians. Learn more about active legislation and how it translates into everyday life for all of us.

Many Special Needs Students Have Struggled with Virtual Classes

Many Special Needs Students Have Struggled with Virtual Classes

Many Special Needs Students Have Struggled with Virtual Classes

Special Needs

For some students virtual classes during the past year have been fine. Some have even thrived. But for many special needs students, it has not gone well, as a parent tells the Georgia Center for Opportunity:

A virtual classroom worked fine for Jennifer’s two older children, but her youngest son, 10-year-old Joey, has Down syndrome. Online learning is entirely unworkable for him due to his special needs.

For example, DeKalb is following a normal bell schedule but staying engaged on Zoom for hours on end is not working. Morning classes will sometimes go well, but by lunchtime Joey is tuned out. It is impossible to get him back online after the lunch break for specials, such as music and art, and Jennifer cannot stay tied up until 2:30pm every day. She has seen academic and social regression for her son as he has little to no interaction with peers.

Additionally, his academic growth is limited due to repetitive practice of current skills on worksheets with no new individual instruction to learn new concepts in language arts or math. As a highly visual and experiential learner, he is missing the magic that happens in a classroom that cannot be replicated on a Zoom call.

“It’s day-by-day and minute-by-minute,” Jennifer shares. “One class he is engaged and on task, and the next minute he is hiding under the bed or taking his shirt off.”

All children, no matter their needs, deserve the opportunity for a high-quality education that meets their individual requirements. 

Today, Axios wrote about a newly released report on 130 studies on the safety of school reopening. The report found:

  • Any benefits to closing schools are far outweighed by the grave risks to children from remote-only schooling — risks that intensify the longer it continues, the report says.
  • The harms include academic loss — so severe that it could set children back for life — and mental health problems related to loneliness and isolation.
  • There are also severe hardships on parents — mothers in particular, about two million of whom have left the workforce to care for their kids as part of remote learning.
  • “Schools are not super-spreaders,” observes the report, written by John P. Bailey, a former deputy policy director at the Department of Commerce.

Fortunately almost 73% of Georgia’s school districts are open for face to face learning. The rest need to reopen ASAP, and plans need to be made to help students who fell behind catch up.


This post originally appeared on on March 11, 2021.