Posts Tagged ‘school choice’

Tennessee Education Stories: Marshall Shanks

Tennessee Education Stories: Marshall Shanks

Marshall Shanks

Marshall Shanks is a a young student in Memphis attending St. George’s Independent School, and he is a perfect example of the positive impact that occurs when we empower families with school choice. Marshall has attended St. George’s since pre-K, has participated in golf, lacrosse, basketball, and band, all while maintaining a 3.4 GPA. He takes a rigorous course-load that has included pre-algebra, French, and Latin. Marshall’s education comes courtesy of the Memphis Opportunity Scholarship Trust (MOST), a privately funded scholarship organization designed to help low-income families in Memphis attend private elementary and secondary schools.

Marshall’s mom, Marilyn, is a prime example of a hardworking mother left to raise her son after his father passed away when Marshall was barely a year old. She is grateful to MOST for Marshall’s opportunity to receive a quality education that she could otherwise not afford. “Our private school experience has been a blessing. We are fortunate to have a choice,” she says.

Sadly, many of Marshall’s peers are not so fortunate. Marshall and Marilyn live in a neighborhood rife with challenges. The hopes of many youth are slipping away, as young people fall prey to drugs and other illicit activities. Without the same opportunities as Marshall to benefit from a quality education, they are being left behind.

To learn more about Beacon’s efforts to advance school choice, click here.

August 29th, 2014 | Feature, Tennessee Stories

Local 24 Investigates: School Vouchers

Local 24 in Memphis did a great story on our recently released education report. You can watch the full video here.

The report, “Saving Education,” broke down school spending. It looked at fixed and variable costs at school districts across the state. The findings are that most schools districts wouldn’t lose money under a voucher system. The report said Shelby County Schools would come out $1,500 ahead for every student that left with a voucher. That is because only a portion of the funding would follow the child. The rest would stay with the public school district.

“We already spend a set amount of money on each child and only a portion of that would follow each student so why not create a win/win situation,” Justin Owen of Beacon Center said.

August 20th, 2014 | Commentary

Tennessee Education Stories: Ambrose Vargason

Tennessee Education Stories: Ambrose Vargason

Ambrose Vargason

Brett and Maria Vargason moved to East Nashville long before the neighborhood was widely recognized among the South’s trendiest culinary and music scenes. To hear Maria say it, “We were East Nashville before East Nashville was cool.” But not every facet of this community has experienced the type of renaissance exemplified by the explosion of gourmet restaurants and underground recording studios. Doubtless, many East Nashville families made up a large portion of the more than 50,000 Metro Nashville students who apply annually for schools different from those for which their ZIP code assigns them. A couple thousand of these families hold a “winning ticket” to the school of their choice by the end of what Metro Nashville Public Schools glowingly refers to as “Selection Day.” But what about those who do not hit the education lottery jackpot?

Maria Vargason fears being one of those many parents holding losing tickets when it’s time for her oldest child, Ambrose, to enter high school. Maria worked for the Ford Motor Credit Company until the birth of her first child, Gus. After that, she left to become a stay-at-home mother and eventually gave birth to three more children. Like many families, the Vargasons considered various factors in deciding where to send their children to school. But when Gus was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy at age six, Maria knew in her heart the only answer was to teach her children at home so that they could spend as much time as possible with each other. Tragically, Gus lost his courageous battle in 2011.

Since then, Maria has continued to educate her children full-time at home, but she does not plan on home schooling her children all the way through high school. As seventh grader, Ambrose approaches high school age, Maria is already concerned about what to do when the time comes to choose a school. “We’re zoned for bad schools,” Maria says, “but even if we were zoned for good schools, they would not necessarily be a good fit for each of my children.” Maria recognizes that each child is unique, and she appreciates a customized education experience not typically provided by a one-size-fits-all model like public education.

Ambrose is “bright, but a late bloomer,” explains Maria, noting that he struggled early with reading comprehension. Learning new things comes easy for his sister, Amelia, has been a member of Centennial Youth Ballet and loves making movies. “She’s very artistic,” Maria says. Their youngest child, Thomas has shown an affinity for baseball and the outdoors, but his temperament requires frequent breaks during school.

The Vargasons consider themselves a middle class family, but like many young families they lack the resources to pay for a private high school for their children. They could apply for one of the district’s magnet or charter schools, but if current demand for these schools is any indication, Ambrose’s chances of being selected are less than four percent. As a result, Ambrose, like so many unique children, is simply trapped.

To learn more about Beacon’s efforts to advance school choice, click here.

August 10th, 2014 | Feature, Tennessee Stories

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