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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


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