The Georgia Promise Scholarship (SB 233): What Private Schools Need to Know

The Georgia Promise Scholarship (SB 233): What Private Schools Need to Know

Children raising hand in classroom

The Georgia Promise Scholarship (SB 233): What Private Schools Need to Know

Key Points

  • The Georgia Promise Scholarship is a state-supported form of financial aid for students who need an alternative to traditional public school education.
  • The Tax Credit Scholarship Program could continue to serve students who are not eligible for a Promise Scholarship. Students would not be able to receive both scholarships. 
  • Promise Scholarships and Tax Credit Scholarships are complementary programs. Together, they diversify the sources and types of aid available to families and can broaden the potential applicant pool for private schools without creating additional fundraising burdens.

The Georgia Promise Scholarship is a state-supported form of financial aid for students leaving public school in search of a better educational setting. Under the proposed legislation, Senate Bill 233, eligible students would have $6,500—funds that the state would have spent on their public school education—set aside in an account. Parents then could direct that money to pay for educational expenses, including private school tuition, books, uniforms, and even transportation. 

Georgia already has two scholarship-based programs: 

  • The Special Needs Scholarship Program, which allows students with special education needs to choose the public or private school best suited for their situation. In the event that families choose a private school, the state provides a scholarship equal to the amount the student would have received for state-based education services. 
  • The Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which expands access to private schools for families who otherwise could not afford that option. 

Adding another scholarship program to Georgia’s menu of education options naturally raises questions about what Promise Scholarships would do and who would be affected. For Georgia’s private schools, these questions are top-of-mind as they seek to understand how Promise Scholarships would impact the Tax Credit Scholarship Program and potentially put other requirements on private schools.

Join the movement to give every child in Georgia the education they deserve! Visit to learn how you can make a difference and learn valuable information for parents on how you can help provide quality education for all Georgia kids. Don’t wait – visit now!

Join the movement to give every child in Georgia the education they deserve! Visit to learn how you can make a difference and learn valuable information for parents on how you can help provide quality education for all Georgia kids. Don’t wait – visit now!

Promise Scholarship (SB 233) FAQs for Georgia’s Private Schools 

Which students would be eligible for a Promise Scholarship?

Students currently attending public schools that are ranked in the bottom 25% of all public schools in academic performance.

Are Promise Scholarship dollars limited solely to tuition and expenses related to private school education?

No. Unlike existing school choice programs in the state such as the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship and the Tuition Tax Credit Scholarship Program, the resources students receive from the Promise Scholarship are more flexible. In addition to private school tuition, allowable expenses could include tutoring and therapies—even offered outside of the private school setting—as well as curriculum and materials for homeschooling. 

What is required by the state of Georgia for a private school to accept students using Promise Scholarship dollars?

The requirements for private schools under the Promise Scholarship program substantially mirror the requirements for private schools already participating in either the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program or the Tuition Tax Credit Scholarship Program. If you already participate in either or both programs, there will be very few (if any) new requirements.

In order to serve students with a Promise Scholarship, private schools must:

  • Have been in operation for one school year.
  • Submit aggregate data of Promise Scholarship Students’ attendance rates and course completion rates.*
  • Report on-time graduation rates of Promise Scholarship Students.* 
  • Comply with the anti-discrimination provisions of 42 U.S.C. Section 2000d.
  • Comply with state laws applicable to private schools.
  • Be physically located in Georgia.
  • Administer to Promise Scholarship Students at least one norm-referenced test that measures academic progress in math and language arts per year.*

*Requirement is unique to the Promise Scholarship program and not currently required by the Tax Credit Scholarship Program.

Would the creation of the Promise Scholarship program negatively impact existing school choice programs, such as the Tax Credit Scholarship Program?

No. The programs should be viewed as complementary to one another, allowing for a greater pool of financial aid for prospective private school families. 

Students would be prohibited from receiving both a Promise Scholarship and a scholarship from an SSO under the Tuition Tax Credit Scholarship Program. However, the Promise Scholarship program gives each participating student $6,500 directly from the state—a higher value than the average scholarships awarded by SSOs under the tax credit program. 

The Tax Credit Scholarship Program could continue to serve students who are not eligible for a Promise Scholarship. 

Are there any protections for private schools, particularly faith-based schools, against state regulation as a result of accepting Promise Scholarship students and dollars?

Yes. Modeled after similar provisions in other states, there is explicit language in the bill prohibiting the state from requiring a private school or other participating provider to alter the creed, practices, admissions and employment policies, or curricula. 

What’s the key takeaway for Georgia’s private schools?

The Promise Scholarship Program and the Tax Credit Scholarship Program would be complementary to one another. Together, these two programs diversify the sources and types of aid available to families and can broaden the potential applicant pool for private schools without creating additional fundraising burdens.


How a Government Shutdown Actually Hurts the Poor

How a Government Shutdown Actually Hurts the Poor

Best practices for reducing crime can empower California to build safer communities through policy.

How a Government Shutdown Actually Hurts the Poor

Key Points

  • Government shutdowns occur when Congress doesn’t pass a set of bills that give federal agencies and services the approval and funding necessary to operate. 
  • Government shutdowns and political wrangling distract from the real issues facing the poor and delay much-needed safety net reforms that would help people move out of government dependency.
  • There are bipartisan solutions Congress can act on to better serve low-income and marginalized communities.

Government shutdowns occur when Congress doesn’t pass a set of bills that give federal agencies and services the necessary funding to operate. Without this approval, agencies must pause all non-essential activity until Congress takes action. Threats of government shutdowns often go hand-in-hand with political conflicts among federal leaders. When this dynamic takes hold in D.C., government shutdowns become, at best, a distraction from the real issues facing the poor and, at worst, a roadblock to efforts to move people out of government dependency.

What Happens During a Government Shutdown?

During a government shutdown, several disruptions happen:  

  • Many federal employees are temporarily out of a job. They are instructed not to show up to work and aren’t paid during the shutdown window, though they typically receive back-pay once a shutdown ends.
  • Essential government employees, such as military, air traffic control, and TSA, are expected to keep working without pay. 
  • Americans may experience delays in government-administered processes, such as permits and passports.
  • Benefits from Social Security, Medicare, and most other need-based programs still go out, but shutdowns often lead to furloughs or reduced staffing levels in federal agencies responsible for administering these programs. As a result, beneficiaries may experience longer processing times for applications, appeals, and inquiries. 
  • Nutrition programs, including SNAP and WIC, are the most at-risk from a government shutdown, with WIC being immediately impacted upon a shutdown (though benefits may still continue for some days) and SNAP having about a month of funding available after a shutdown.

Government Shutdowns and Safety Net Programs 

For many Americans who currently need assistance from programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), and Social Security, a government shutdown can be a fearful prospect. The worry of losing essential benefits and facing greater financial hardship can take a significant toll on individuals and families in low-income households and communities. 

The good news for these Americans is that need-based services are typically the last area to be affected and the first to receive any additional approved funding, and government shutdowns would have to go on for a long time—longer than the current record of 34 days—before beneficiaries notice any change in financial assistance. The biggest hurdle is that agencies may be slower to respond to applications, inquiries, and other administrative needs. 

Government Shutdowns Prolong the Suffering of Low-Income, Marginalized Communities

Government shutdowns can generate consequences and inconveniences across the country, but it’s important to recognize that not everyone bears the brunt of a government shutdown equally. 

A government shutdown may not cut off food stamps, social security, or other safety net benefits immediately. However, low-income and vulnerable communities still suffer because their struggles get lost in the midst of political conflicts. The impending shutdown is brewing because political wrangling and polarization continue to distract federal leaders from addressing real problems and broken safety net systems.

There Are Solutions Congress Can Act On to Create Better Pathways Out of Poverty

To better serve people living on the margins, federal lawmakers must stop avoiding the reality that the design of our safety net is a barrier, not a bridge, to opportunity. 

In the current system, recipients are forced to navigate multiple, disconnected programs, eligibility requirements, and caseworkers—a maze that becomes a trap for welfare dependence instead of a secure path out of poverty. Government shutdowns can certainly add to this tediousness and complexity, but there’s a bigger question looming in the background: How do we design our safety net system so that it  actually helps Americans become more self-sufficient and regain hope and dignity along the way? 

There are solutions Congress can implement.

Expanding the One Door Model to Bridge Welfare and Work 

The One Door Model does away with disconnected programs and integrates human services with work support so that beneficiaries who are capable of working have a clear, supportive, and accessible path to personal well-being and meaningful jobs.

This reform improves safety net services by: 

  • Streamlining programs and making the system easier for recipients to navigate.
  • Building a bridge to work, training, and education to promote self-sufficiency over dependency. 
  • Providing cost savings for federal and state budgets.


One Door To Opportunity

The purpose and direction of our safety net programs are to help and not hinder opportunity. We must build a system that provides one door to access opportunities leading to thriving. This is a dramatic change in how we deliver help to those in need.

One Door To Opportunity

The purpose and direction of our safety net programs are to help and not hinder opportunity. We must build a system that provides one door to access opportunities leading to thriving. This is a dramatic change in how we deliver help to those in need.

The first and only state to adopt this approach is Utah, where it has changed the lives of thousands—everyone from single mothers to ex-offenders seeking a fresh start. The One Door Model is a fix all states could implement…if Congress would allow them. Under the current federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), states are blocked from adopting the reform. Congress could change this simply by revising WIOA. 

Removing the Barrier of Benefits Cliffs 

All safety net programs suffer from a benefits cliffs problem. A benefits cliff is when an individual, family, or household loses more in benefits from government assistance programs than it gains from additional earned income.

When a person experiences a benefits cliff, they are thrust into serious difficulties: loss of housing, going hungry, fearing that their children will be taken by Child Protective Services, and more. While most people don’t want to depend on government assistance long-term, a higher wage often doesn’t offset the vulnerabilities created by a sudden, steep loss of benefits.

The One Door Model, work requirements, and other welfare-to-work solutions can encourage more people toward employment and independence, but this approach isn’t a full solution. As long as benefits cliffs exist in the safety net, people will face a significant barrier that incentivizes them to choose government dependency. Reforms are needed at both the federal and state levels to empower more households to overcome benefits cliffs through steady work and typical pay raises so that they can achieve self-sufficiency more quickly and securely. 

Knowing that practical, life-changing solutions are out there, we can look at government shutdown debates in a different light and ask: What are the political games in DC costing communities? For millions of Americans, the tragic answer is that it’s costing them the chance  for a more fulfilled, self-sufficient life as long as federal leaders devote energy to political distractions instead of bipartisan opportunities to fix our broken safety net system. 

National Police Week: Community Benefits of a Strong Police Force

National Police Week: Community Benefits of a Strong Police Force

2023 police week, national police week, police, police week, men in blue

National Police Week: Community Benefits of a Strong Police Force

Key Points

  • Each May, National Police Week honors America’s law enforcement members, especially those who have fallen in the line of duty. 
  • Lower crime and violence is a proven community benefit of having more police. 
  • Investing in local police forces is a practical way to reduce violence in areas like Atlanta and Columbus.

Every May, a week is designated as National Police Week to honor America’s law enforcement members, especially those officers who sacrificed their lives while serving their communities. Along with remembering these local heroes, Police Week is an opportunity to reflect on the role law enforcement has in building vibrant communities where everyone can achieve their potential. 


The Community Benefit of More Police: Less Crime. 

In 2020, 21% of U.S. residents had contact with the police, with most interactions relating to traffic stops or accidents, reporting of crimes, or seeking help with non-crime emergencies. Behind all of these interactions is a larger societal benefit of well-staffed, well-managed police forces: less violence. 

Josh Crawford, GCO’s Director of Criminal Justice, notes: “Police are the element of the criminal justice system most visible to the public and the arm with which citizens are most likely to interact.”

That presence is key to discouraging crime and boosting people’s confidence in the safety of their communities. Over the past couple of decades, research has affirmed what many intuitively know—that having more police helps lower crime and violence.


  • 2002: Criminologists from the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that “a 10 percent increase in police levels lowered crime rates by 1.4 percent over time.”
  • 2004: Economist Steven D. Levitt examined data from 122 cities around the U.S. from 1975 to 1995 and found that increased police numbers brought down violent crime by 12 percent and property crime by eight percent.
  • 2015: A Brennan Center for Justice report found that “increases in the number of police officers had a modest, downward effect on crime in the 1990s, likely between 0 and 10 percent.”
  • 2018: A 2018 study looked at police and crime data from 1960 through 2010 and concluded that every $1 spent on policing generates about $1.63 in social benefits, mostly through reductions in homicides.

Georgia’s Communities Have a Police Shortage Problem 

Georgia is one of many states grappling with a shortage of police officers. Areas like Atlanta and Columbus in particular have struggled to recruit and retain enough officers, and communities are feeling the strain as violence rises and wait times increase for emergency responses. 

According to the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), police shortages have had three major drivers: 

  1. Law enforcement agencies can’t hire enough officers. An April 2023 survey of police agencies found that “police agencies are losing officers faster than they can hire new ones.” The talent pool is also shrinking. Agencies have reported a noticeable decrease in the number of applicants for open positions.
  2. Officers are leaving before retirement age. Based on exit interview data available from police agencies, the top reason officers resign is to take another job in law enforcement. The second highest reason is to switch their career path altogether. 
  3. More officers are approaching retirement. According to PERF’s survey data, approximately a quarter of U.S. police officers have reached retirement age or will be eligible to retire within the next three to five years. 


Investing in Local Police Is Necessary for Growing Vibrant, Low-Crime Communities

According to Crawford, defunding or otherwise redirecting money away from local police is not the answer

“Proponents of ‘defund the police’ are quick to point to the fact that the money taken from police agencies would be reallocated to a myriad of social programs and direct investment in underserved communities,” said Crawford. “Worthy as these individual programs and investments may be, there is no social program that can replicate the essential functions of policing.” 

In 1995 and again in 2009, federal grants from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) helped state and local law enforcement agencies address officer recruitment and retention challenges. The track record of this funding was strong: Police hires increased, and crime went down. Various research on COPS funding suggests another grant round could help police agencies address today’s staffing shortages — as long as the funding is tied to increasing full-time, sworn officers within the specific departments receiving the grants. 

Whether it’s at the federal level or efforts closer to home, we should direct resources to what we know serves our neighborhoods best. Communities benefit when they have more officers with more hours of better training, not fewer officers with less training. 

The Georgia Promise Scholarship Act (SB 233): Questions and Answers

The Georgia Promise Scholarship Act (SB 233): Questions and Answers

The Georgia Promise Scholarship Act (SB 233): Questions and Answers

Key Points

  • Georgia Senators have passed a bill (Senate Bill 233) that would create Promise Scholarship Accounts. The bill is headed to the House for a vote.
  • Funded by the state in the amount of $6,000 per student for each school year, Promise Scholarships would allow parents to find the right education option for their kids. 
  • Eligibility is limited to kids in the bottom-performing quartile of public schools (F-graded schools and some D-graded schools), based on the Georgia Department of Education’s evaluation.

The Georgia Senate has passed Senate Bill 233, the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act, which would expand education options in Georgia by creating education savings accounts. Georgia has a widespread problem of underperforming public schools and a growing parent demand for more education choice and flexibility. Promise Scholarships are a much-needed solution for expanding quality education for Georgia kids. Here’s what parents and voters need to know about Promise Scholarships.

What is SB 233, the Georgia Promise Scholarship Act? 

The Georgia Promise Scholarship Act (SB 233) is a type of education choice program for parents and families. It creates promise scholarships, which are state-administered, state-funded accounts that would give families $6,000 per year and per student to use for approved education expenses. Another common name for this type of program is “education savings accounts.”

How would Georgia Promise Scholarship Accounts work?

Promise Scholarship Accounts would give families $6,000 per year and per student to use for approved education expenses. The state would set aside these funds into an account the parent can direct toward the education option(s) that best supports their child’s unique learning needs.

How is the Promise Scholarship amount determined?

Georgia Promise Scholarship amounts are set at $6,000, which is approximately the average per-pupil amount that the state sends to local school districts, based on Georgia’s current student funding formula.

What could Georgia parents do with a Promise Scholarship Account?

Unlike Georgia’s other school choice programs, Promise Scholarship Accounts give parents the flexibility to buy multiple education products and services to personalize their child’s education. Parents can use accounts to pay one or more qualifying education expenses:

  • Tuition and fees for private schools, vocational programs, or college
  • Cost of online programs or classes
  • Tutoring services
  • Curriculum and textbooks 
  • Technology, including adaptive or assistive technologies for students with special needs
  • Educational therapies
  • Transportation costs

Who can apply for a Promise Scholarship? 

To apply and qualify, parents must be Georgia residents, and the student must be enrolled in a Georgia public school that the Georgia Department of Education ranks in the bottom quartile of school performance based on their annual assessment (schools receiving a “D” or “F” grade from the state). Children who are eligible for kindergarten or pre-kindergarten can also apply. Once eligible, a child remains eligible through the 12th grade. 

Parents must agree to use the accounts only for qualifying educational expenses, and they cannot enroll their child in a local school system school, charter school, or a state charter school while participating in the program.

Do you qualify?
Use our interactive map to see which schools are in the lowest 25% of Georgia’s public schools.

Do you qualify?
Use our interactive map to see which schools are in the lowest 25% of Georgia’s public schools.

Why does Georgia need the Promise Scholarship Act? 

Georgia has a widespread problem of underperforming or failing public schools. Based on our state’s own evaluation of public school performance, at least 500,000 kids are stuck in schools that receive a D or F grade from the Georgia Department of Education. 

Georgia, like many states, is experiencing a parent movement for more education choice and flexibility as frustration with a one-size-fits-all school system has grown since the pandemic. This program would give parents seeking alternatives more opportunity to customize their child’s education when the local public school is not the best fit. 

The program would also benefit parents who are satisfied with their local public school. States with robust education choice programs achieve better outcomes for all students, including those in the public school system. Education savings account programs, in particular, have a track record of empowering public schools to improve their budgets, as well as student achievement.

Are Georgia Promise Scholarships the same thing as school vouchers?

No, Promise Scholarships and vouchers are two different types of parental choice programs. This question is a common one because critics of education savings accounts often call them “private school scholarships” or “vouchers by another name.” However, both descriptions are inaccurate and misleading.

School vouchers allow parents to use public education dollars for private school tuition only. Education savings accounts can be used for a wider range of education expenses, and they allow parents more flexibility to pay for multiple education services and products if desired.

Are Georgia Promise Scholarships the same thing as 529 plans?

No. With a 529 plan, the parents are responsible for contributing money to the account in order to save for their child’s education expenses. Promise Scholarships would be state-funded and would not require parents to contribute any of their own money. Parents can choose to use a Promise Scholarship Account for education savings, such as saving for college tuition, but the account doesn’t have the same tax benefits that 529 plans do.


The program is a major step toward expanding access to quality education for every kid in Georgia.

The program is a major step toward expanding access to quality education for every kid in Georgia.


Do other states have education savings accounts? 

Yes, ten states have adopted some form of an education savings account program: Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia. As of March 2023, Arkansas became the eleventh state to adopt ESAs. 

In addition to Georgia, these other states are considering education savings account programs in 2023:

  • Idaho: Idaho’s Senate Education Committee passed a bill that would create an education savings account program for Idaho families. The bill is now headed to the Senate floor for debate and a potential vote.
  • Oklahoma: Governor Kevin Stitt recently endorsed education savings accounts to give Oklahoma parents at least $5,000 per child for schooling options. Two pieces of related legislation have been filed in the state senate. 
  • South Carolina: The South Carolina Senate passed a proposal to create education savings accounts that would give up to 15,000 students $6,000 for tuition, transportation, textbooks, and internet access. The bill is now headed to the House of Representatives.
  • Texas: Governor Greg Abbott has made school choice a priority for the 2023 legislative session, and he’s calling for the state to adopt education savings accounts to increase parental choice. 

Will SB 233 and Promise Scholarships take money away from Georgia’s public schools?

No. In fact, it’s possible for Georgia to fund both public schools and school choice programs at the same time. Promise Scholarships would give a portion of state per-pupil funding to parents. Remaining education dollars go back to public schools and can even lead to an increase in spending per-pupil public school spending. 

That has been the case in Arizona, which has one of the longest-running and most inclusive ESA programs. Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts award a total of $250 million ($7,000 per student), which amounts to 1.7% of the total $14.8 billion going to Arizona public schools in 2022-2023. Furthermore, for every ESA participant, approximately $600 is going back to Arizona’s public schools for teacher pay and other essential expenses.

Plus, while ESAs will be a good solution for certain families, many parents will continue to access education through their local public school. That means states will still need to prioritize sufficient funding for public schools. 

Will the Promise Scholarship Act (SB 233) help low-income families? 

Yes. One benefit of Education Savings Account programs is that they are one of the most equitable education choice methods out there. They give students from low-income families more opportunities to access schooling options that are often only available to families with greater financial resources.

Will the Promise Scholarship Act (SB 233) hurt homeschooling families? 

No. There are no provisions in the proposed law that would prevent homeschooling families from continuing this schooling option. Instead, SB 233 could make homeschooling an even more feasible option because families who qualify could use an account to pay for curriculum, courses, tutoring, or other educational resources that would enhance their homeschooling experience.

7 African-Americans Who Fought for Educational Opportunity

7 African-Americans Who Fought for Educational Opportunity

Black History Month School Choice

7 African-Americans Who Fought for Educational Opportunity

Key Points

  • Access to quality education is a top conversation in Georgia and many other states and has been for decades.
  • Stories of black educators offer inspiration for continuing to pursue better education opportunities for every kid. 
  • The examples set by African American educators remind us how critical education is for supporting kids’ mental health, preparing them for jobs, and helping them become active citizens in their communities.

No matter what chapter of history you look at, education is often one of the top issues that states and communities have wrestled with. Even today, Georgia is grappling with the reality that thousands of kids are stuck in underperforming schools, and change is needed if we are going to give them a chance to thrive. 

As we celebrate Black History Month this February, it’s a perfect time to look to the African American community for inspiration on the issue of education. Having suffered obstacles ranging from zero education access to segregation and racism in schools, numerous African Americans throughout our country’s history know firsthand the struggle—and the gift—that education can be. Many have dedicated themselves to the cause of education, driven by a shared passion and vision for giving every kid a quality education, regardless of their race or circumstance of their birth. 

Let’s meet a few of these leaders who dedicated their lives to fighting for more educational freedom and opportunity.   

  1. Charlotte Forten Grimké (1837-1914)

Charlotte Forten Grimké grew up in Philadelphia in a family well-known for its activism against slavery. In her early school years, she was taught at home by tutors. Because Philadelphia’s school system was segregated, Charlotte’s parents sent her to Salem, Massachusetts, where she could attend a more progressive school that accepted Black students. As an adult, Charlotte paid the opportunity of education forward. She attended teacher training school, and during the Civil War, she was the first Black teacher to work at the Penn School in South Carolina, a school established to teach African-American children both while they were enslaved and after they were freed. After the war, Charlotte worked for the Freedmen’s Union Commission and the U.S. Treasury Department to help recruit and train more African-American teachers. 


May those whose holy task it is,

To guide impulsive youth,

Fail not to cherish in their souls

A reverence for truth;

For teachings which the lips impart

Must have their source within the heart.

– From The Journal of Charlotte Forten, 1853

    1. Fanny Jackson Coppin (1837-1913)

    Fanny Jackson Coppin was born into slavery and was not freed until age 12. For the rest of her young adult years, she worked as a servant for author George Henry Calvert in Newport, Rhode Island. Fanny yearned for education, so she used her earnings to employ a tutor for about three hours a week. Thanks to her academic diligence and financial help from an aunt and the local African Methodist Church, Fanny entered Oberlin College, Ohio, which was the first college in the United States to enroll both black and female students. 

    It was at Oberlin College that Fanny embarked on her career as an educator—a vocation that would create learning opportunities for thousands of African Americans. While a student at Oberlin, she taught a free night class for African Americans in reading and writing. The College also appointed her to teach classes at their preparatory division, the Oberlin Academy, making Fanny the first black teacher among the Academy’s faculty. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in 1865, becoming one of only three African American women to do so, she accepted a position at Philadelphia’s Institute for Colored Youth. Over the course of her career, Fanny would become the first African American woman to serve as a school principal and to fill the role of superintendent of a United States school district. 


    “I feel sometimes like a person to whom in childhood was entrusted some sacred flame…This is the desire to see my race lifted out of the mire of ignorance, weakness and degradation; no longer to sit in obscure corners and devour the scraps of knowledge which his superiors flung at him. I want to see him crowned with strength and dignity; adorned with the enduring grace of intellectual attainments.” – Fanny Jackson Coppin, writing to Frederick Douglass in 1876

    1. Inez Beverly Prosser (1895-1934)

    Inez Beverly Prosser was born into a family that highly valued education. Opportunities were scarce for African American kids during Inez’s childhood, and her family moved often in search of the best education available for Inez and her 10 siblings. Inez’s schooling led her to earn a teaching certificate, a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s degree in educational psychology. 

    Inez had a deep passion for education and believed in its power to change lives. She held various roles as a teacher and assistant principal in segregated schools, but her interest in psychology set her apart from other educators. She devoted herself to understanding and improving the educational and psychological development of African American students. In 1933, she became one of the first black women to earn a PhD in psychology. Her research undertook a pioneering and bold examination of segregation’s impact on black students’ social, psychological, and educational development. Findings and arguments from her dissertation were cited in the larger debate about school segregation, carving out a legacy for Inez as one of the leading advocates for the educational and mental health of African American kids.  


    “I am interested in that type of research which will lead to better teaching in elementary and high schools.” – Inez Beverly Prosser

    “Many have dedicated themselves to the cause of education, driven by a shared passion and vision for giving every kid a quality education, regardless of their race or circumstance of their birth.”

    “Many have dedicated themselves to the cause of education, driven by a shared passion and vision for giving every kid a quality education, regardless of their race or circumstance of their birth.”

    1. Kelly Miller (1863-1939) 

    From his early school days, Kelly Miller showed a talent for math. After an impressive academic career spanning the study of math, sociology, Latin, and Greek, Kelly received a bachelor’s degree from Howard University. He became the first black man to be accepted into Johns Hopkins University for post-graduate work in mathematics, physics, and astronomy. 

    However, Kelly was forced to leave Johns Hopkins when the school increased its fees, and he returned to Howard University where he took a teaching job and continued his own education, earning advanced degrees in math and law. In 1907, Kelly became the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Howard. His passion for education motivated him to modernize the College’s curriculum and to tour states across the South in recruitment of new students. Under his leadership, enrollment tripled, and curriculum improved. 

    “The instruction which you have received here, and upon which your diplomas set a seal, will be of value to you only in so far as you digest and assimilate it, and wisely adapt it to the tasks which lie before you.” — Kelly Miller

    1. Nannie Helen Burroughs (1879-1961)

    Nannie Helen Burroughs was born in Virginia, and after her father’s death, she moved to Washington, D.C., with her mother where she completed high school and graduated with honors. While Nannie’s career began with roles in secretarial and bookkeeping work, education would eventually become her focus. 

    Her mark in education was a unique one: Nannie wanted to help poor, working African American women. She believed that these women should have opportunities to learn skills beyond domestic work, so in 1909, she founded the National Training School for Women and Girls in partnership with the National Baptist Convention and through the support of small donations from the black community. The school provided job training and academic instruction to young black women, giving them the option to enter the workforce and pursue careers. The school was one of the first of its kind in the early 20th century, and Nannie served as its president until her death in 1961. 


    “To struggle and battle and overcome and absolutely defeat every force designed against us is the only way to achieve.” — Nannie Helen Burroughs

    1. Esau Jenkins (1910-1972) 

    Esau Jenkins was a shining example of how community members can contribute to improving education for underserved kids. Having grown up in the era of segregation, Esau knew what it was like not to have access to educational opportunities. If he had anything to do with it, the kids in his South Carolina community would not have to suffer the same injustice. 

    So, Esau and his wife used part of their income to buy a bus to transport their own kids and fellow children on South Carolina’s Sea Islands to schools in Charleston. Esau also used his bus to help adult workers get to their jobs. During these rides, he and his wife would teach the workers about the U.S. Constitution and other information that was required to pass literacy exams and become a registered voter. This experience showed Esau that a better approach to adult education was desperately needed, and he founded the first Citizenship School on Johns Island to provide more structured education for adults, including instruction in basic literacy and politics. Thanks to his efforts, thousands of African Americans became registered voters. 

    Even while supporting adult education, Esau’s motivation to help kids did not falter. In 1951, Esau played a key role in establishing Haut Gap School on Johns Island so that the youth in that community would have a quality education option. Today, Haut Gap is a middle school that functions as a magnet school—a type of public school option that specializes in certain curriculum areas, such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), the arts, or vocational training.


    “It takes a pretty large person to love. Any small person can hate.” – Esau Jenkins


    1. Septima Poinsette Clark (1898-1987) 

    Septima Poinsette Clark’s legacy was that of a community teacher. Septima grew up in Charleston, South Carolina—a place where the lines of segregation and class were strictly and harshly drawn, especially when it came to education. Septima was a bright student. After sixth grade, she tested directly into ninth grade at the Avery Institute and graduated from high school in 1916. Financial constraints prevented her from attending college, but even without a degree, she passed the state examination that allowed her to teach. 

    Charleston did not allow African Americans to teach in its public schools, so Septima took a teaching job in the rural community of Johns Island just outside of Charleston. Throughout her 40 years as an educator, Septima had various jobs where she would teach children during the day. At night, on her own time, she would teach African American adults how to read and write and, in the process, she developed several innovative methods to help them pick up these skills more quickly. Septima believed that literacy and citizenship went hand-in-hand, so as she taught basic literacy skills, she also helped adults learn about their rights and become informed, registered voters. Through her work, she became an influential civil rights leader and activist, known as “The Mother of the Movement” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others. 


    “What we are working for is an educational program that has become a resource and rallying point for scores of brave southerners who are leading the fight for justice and better race relations in these crucial days.”