With more than 17,000 students enrolled in scholarship programs, Georgia is a leader in educational opportunity, according to the 2016-2017 School Choice Yearbook put out by the American Federation for Children (AFC). In fact, the Peach State is seventh in the country in scholarship program participation, with 4,000 kids receiving tuition assistance through the Special Needs Scholarship Program and 13,600 more participating in the tax credit scholarship program.
It’s exciting to see enthusiasm like this, but it shouldn’t be surprising. According to a poll by AFC, school choice is popular: 84 percent of Republicans, 55 percent of Democrats, and 67 percent of independents support school choice. Among millennials and minorities, support is even stronger, with 74 percent of Latinos, 72 percent of African Americans, and 75 percent of millennials in favor. And the momentum is only growing.
Why is that the case? Among many other reasons, school choice recognizes the obvious fact that not every student is the same. No school can successfully meet the unique and individual needs of every single student—and no school should. It’s too great a task to ask schools to cater to the kids whose parents want them to learn Mandarin, the kids with particularly complex special needs, the kids who are particularly gifted, the kids who want to play violin, and the kids who would thrive in a traditional school. When some parents want the kids in uniforms, some don’t, and some don’t care but don’t want to fight about it, how can one school please everyone?
School choice means they don’t have to. School choice allows parents to send their kids to whatever school they believe is the best fit for their child’s unique needs, skills, and goals. And who is more invested in a child’s success than their parents?
This year, lawmakers are on track to expand the state’s wildly popular tuition tax credit scholarship program. If the measure passes the Senate, it will allow even more Georgians to access even more opportunity. And opportunity in education means opportunity for life.