School choice is giving hope to Georgia’s kids
We want everyone to know about the students who are working hard to succeed.
Learn more about school choice in Georgia by clicking here.
Learn more about school choice in Georgia by clicking here.
By Contributing Scholar: Jonathan Butcher
As a teacher, Julie Young knew her grandson was going to need help outside of the classroom. He had been diagnosed with dyslexia, and he struggled to “retain anything he saw on paper,” Julie said.
Julie and her family live in Arizona, where students with special needs are among the children eligible for education savings accounts. Julie applied for an account and saw results almost immediately.
She used the account to enroll him in occupational therapy, and “within a matter of weeks, I noticed a huge improvement,” Julie says. “His OT helped him memorize his multiplication tables by using silly songs. Every day he made gains in areas that never seemed to stick before,” she says.
With an education savings account, the state deposits a portion of a child’s funds from the state education formula into a private account that parents use to buy education products and services for their children. Lawmakers in six states have enacted such laws, including Georgia’s neighbors: Florida, Tennessee, and Mississippi (Nevada and North Carolina legislators have also passed legislation).
The accounts are distinct from private school scholarships because parents and students can select multiple learning options simultaneously. It’s not unusual for account holders to find a personal tutor for their child, enroll their student in education therapy services, and pay for instructional materials to be used at home. Research from Arizona finds that approximately one-third of account holders use education savings accounts for a set of learning options. More than 40 percent of Florida account holders do so.
Parents want to be able to challenge their students and are prepared to customize their child’s learning experience. One Arizona mom explained that doctors had diagnosed her son as being on the autism spectrum, and despite special services in a district school, he had not learned to talk. After using an account to select a speech therapist of their choosing, “Nathan has learned to talk and he loves learning to spell and even reading books… He’s using complete sentences and even asking and answering questions on a regular basis.”
In Florida, a mom of three adopted children and two biological children uses an account (called Gardiner Scholarships) for her adopted daughter, Elizabeth, to buy instructional materials for use in the home. In an interview, the mom said, “I could reinforce what was and wasn’t happening in the classroom.” Today, Elizabeth has returned to a district school, and her mom says she “wouldn’t be where we are without the intense therapies that I was able to do because of the Gardiner scholarship.”
Now Georgia lawmakers are considering a proposal that would make accounts available to children with special needs, students from low income families, adopted children, students in active duty military families, and children who have been bullied in school.
Experiences from other states demonstrate that students from all walks of life can benefit from the accounts. Arizona lawmakers enacted the nation’s first law in 2011 for children with special needs but have expanded student eligibility since. By the 2015-2016 school year, approximately 40 percent of account holders were children that met other eligibility criteria: 15 percent of account holders were students previously assigned to failing schools; 11 percent were children from military families; 8 percent were adopted students; and 6 percent were Native American students living on tribal lands.
As for Julie, an education savings account has allowed her to set new goals for her grandson. “My grandson understands his limitations,” she says. “He has a long road to go before all of his basic skills are mastered, but I feel confident that so long as we can… [meet] his individual needs, he will succeed in anything he chooses to do.”
Every Georgia parent or loved one wants to have the same vision for success for their child. The education savings account proposal puts these aspirations within reach for thousands of students across the state. Every family wants to have an opportunity like this.
There’s no doubt about it: Marriage is in crisis today, both in Georgia and across the United States. But even as we grieve declining marriage rates among young people—many of whom choose to cohabit rather than tie the knot—and spiking divorce rates among Baby Boomers, we’re reminded that we have so much to celebrate. And we have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about what the future holds.
Why? Because we know that healthy marriages are a cornerstone of our society. And they’ll always be. We know that married people tend to be happier, healthier, wealthier, and enjoy more stability in their lives. Those benefits also extend to kids, who perform better in school and have a far slimmer chance of being in poverty.
In the spirit of celebrating all that’s great about marriage, we’re thrilled to recognize National Marriage Week (February 7-14) leading up to Valentine’s Day. National Marriage Week seeks to foster collaboration around the country to “strengthen individual marriages, reduce the divorce rate, and build a culture that fosters strong marriages.”
One of our core goals here at Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) is to give couples the tools they need to not just survive, but thrive in their marriages. Empirical research clearly tells us that marriage is a crucial step toward achieving economic and relational stability. In fact, it’s one part of the three-part “success sequence”: Those who get a good education, work full-time, and marry before having children are nearly guaranteed a place in the middle class.
This National Marriage Week, if you’re looking for ways to strengthen your own relationship or help others strengthen theirs, here are several practical ways to get started:
The Georgia legislature is back in session, and school choice is likely to be a front and center issue. As we look to build off past school-choice successes in Georgia, a key priority will be to see Educational Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) become a reality.
Along these lines, a new national poll from EdChoice has some great news: Americans pick ESAs as their preferred K-12 educational choice option. This news comes at a great time for parents across Georgia who desperately need more options for their children.
ESAs are an innovative way for parents to pay for non-public educational options for their children (kids like Seth). ESAs allow parents to direct the money the state would have spent on their child to things like tuition, tutors, adaptive technology, therapy, and curriculum to truly customize an education that best meets each child’s needs.
These new survey results show that ESAs have the highest support among K-12 educational choice options (including majority support among public school teachers). Support for ESAs has risen from 64 percent in 2013 to 74 percent in 2018. In addition, the survey reveals across-the-board growing support for other school-choice options. Here are some of the highlights:
The entire team at Georgia Center for Opportunity will be hard at work in 2019 to see ESAs pass in the state legislature. The time is ripe for Georgia to become the seventh state nationally to make ESAs available!