Desperate for options, Jan turns to school choice

Desperate for options, Jan turns to school choice

Imagine the challenge of raising two children with special needs. That’s the task that Jan—a small business owner in Georgia—faces in bringing up her two girls. Katie has ADHD, dyslexia, and autism spectrum disorder, and Jessica has an auditory processing disorder and ADHD.

But as Jan has discovered, while raising two children with special needs presents challenges, it also presents unique opportunities. Both Katie and Jessica were caught in a local public-school system that wasn’t meeting their needs. In fact, teachers told Jan that there was nothing they could do to help Katie—and that she would never learn to read or write—and that Jessica would never be able to pass state tests.

“I remember all the days at the bus stop crying and just telling my daughters, ‘We just have to make it through the end of the year,’” Jan shared. “If you don’t fit into the box, you fall through the cracks.”

Desperate for options, Jan turned to Georgia’s Special Needs Scholarship Program (the SB10 waiver). The program allows students with special needs to transfer to another school—traditional, charter, or authorized private—to better meet their unique educational needs. Since the scholarship program became law in 2007, nearly 25,000 students have participated, including 4,154 students for the 2015-2016 school year alone.

Due to funds through the scholarship, Katie started attending a small private school specifically designed for students with reading challenges. The results have been astounding: She now reads at grade level and is performing several grade levels above in math. Meanwhile, Jessica is excelling as well, taking advanced-level chemistry and performing several grade levels above in other subjects.

“Our experience at the private school is night and day,” Jan said. “I remember my daughter saying, ‘Mom, I don’t think I ever want to leave this school. Everyone here has a disability and it’s not a big deal.”

Today, Jan is dedicated to telling other families about the enormous blessing of the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program. Even so, she sees room for improvement in the program.

“If families were able to use the scholarship for other expenses needed for children with special needs—such as tutors and therapies—it would be incredibly helpful,” she said. “A lot of students also need additional help to get caught up because they were so far behind in their public schools. Flexibility in how the funding could be used would help support getting them on track at their private schools.”

Georgia Center for Opportunity CEO reacts to leaked audio of Lt. Governor

Georgia Center for Opportunity CEO reacts to leaked audio of Lt. Governor

ATLANTA – During the 2018 legislative session, the Georgia Center for Opportunity stood with parents across the state and fervently advocated for the expansion of the tax credit tuition scholarship program. In response to a leaked audio recording involving Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, GCO’s president and CEO released the following statement.

“Thousands of parents and educators in Georgia have fought long and hard so children can have access to education that fits their needs. And they are more than used to the frustration of backroom politics coming before students,” said Randy Hicks, President and CEO of the Georgia Center for Opportunity. “Here’s what we know about this bill: it improves the future of thousands of kids from lower-income families. That’s good policy. Because of how the bill is structured, it has the effect of increasing per-pupil dollars available in the public schools. That’s good policy. Finally, studies show that school choice improves student-teacher ratios as well as the academic performance of both the kids who leave and the kids who stay in the public schools. That’s good policy. Put it all together, you’ve got excellent policy.”

We are certainly prepared to remind Mr. Cagle and any other candidate that policies that improve the future for thousands of kids is exactly what good legislation looks like.”


Education scholars are available to speak to members of the media who have further questions regarding Georgia’s tax credit tuition scholarship program.

Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) is independent, non-partisan, and solutions-focused. Our team is dedicated to creating opportunities for a quality education, fulfilling work, and a healthy family life for all Georgians. To achieve our mission, we research ways to help remove barriers to opportunity in each of these pathways, promote our solutions to policymakers and the public, and help effective and innovative social enterprises deliver results in their communities.