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A Case for Education Savings Accounts: The Lopez Family Story

BY TAYLOR DAWSON

December 27, 2018 9:20AM

With six children whose ages span from 29 to 14, Julie and Raul Lopez have had a good bit of experience dealing with education in Tennessee. Julie, a former schoolteacher and full-time tutor, had her hands full homeschooling her children over the course of 15 years. In 2004, Julie was pregnant with her fourth child and homeschooling her first three when they adopted their two daughters from Colombia—neither of them were able to speak English. Right around that time, Raul lost his job, and just two years earlier, her middle son Jonathan was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Homeschooling six children became financially problematic, but the Lopez family was challenged to find other options, with two children who were still learning how to speak English and one with special needs.

Julie and Raul have learned a lot in their 22 years of parenting. For one year, because of the Lopez’s financial situation, all of their children were enrolled in in their zoned public school in Nashville, and all had different experiences. While some of the children thrived in the public school, others did not. Learning from that experience, Julie and Raul decided that Julie would leave work and return to homeschooling their children. They dedicated their financial resources to purchasing textbooks and school supplies, and they gave the children the ability to participate in extracurriculars through a homeschool co-op program. After the eldest four children graduated from homeschool, the youngest two enrolled in Mt. Juliet Christian Academy, where one child has graduated and the youngest is still in school.

When asked about taking on her children’s educational needs on their own dime, Julie said that if Tennessee had an education savings account program while her children were in school, it would have made a huge difference. “My children would have been able to have new shoes, football pads that weren’t hand-me-downs, and we would have been able to purchase the school supplies that my children needed. I would have been able to continue to educate my children, as we had planned to do, when my husband lost his job,” she said.

Families like the Lopez family—who want and need choices for their children’s education—exist all over Tennessee. With education savings accounts, or ESAs, Tennessee parents can decide the best course for their kid’s education and dedicate the dollars that are already going toward their children’s education to their unique, specific needs.