Focused on spreading education opportunity to all Tennesseans


January 24, 2019 10:27AM

Like Johnny Cash, I’ve been everywhere man, I’ve been everywhere. As an Army “brat” until my junior year of college, I moved around a lot. In fact, growing up my only constant was change, including dying friendships every summer and new ones in the fall to living in different cultures, including the Deep South, Great Plains, Louisiana Bayou, and the Last Frontier. With all of these moves to different bases came nine different homes and seven different school systems all before graduating from high school.

When you go to as many different schools as I did growing up, you see schools that run the gamut. Even as a kid, I could tell the differences between learning environments. Some of my schools had everything needed to create a great atmosphere for me to learn. My school for fifth grade was one of the first schools in the country to have a smart board and my high school was in one of the highest rated school systems in the state of Georgia. However, others were not so great. In fact, my school in Louisiana for second and third grade was so poor and ill-funded, it didn’t have walls for the classrooms. We used regular bookshelves to divide classrooms from each other. Want to talk about a distracting learning environment? Imagine hearing the teacher in the other “room” giving their Spanish lesson over the bookshelf at the same time you’re trying to listen to your teacher teach multiplication.

Dealing with the constant change of moving and disparity of schools is why school choice would be so beneficial for and remains popular amongst military families. As my colleague has previously pointed out, school choice—and particularly ESAs—would allow military families the opportunity to provide the schooling for their children that best matches the military lifestyle.

However, there is a flip side to this issue. While it’s true a military family might have apprehension about the schools at their next assignment, they might be relieved in that they get to move from an underperforming school system to a new base at the expense of the U.S. military with a job already lined up. For most Americans, unless you’re fortunate enough to be able to afford private school, the only way to put your child in a new school that better suits their needs is to move, which comes at a big risk. Usually, it means leaving your community and maybe even your job. And that’s assuming one can afford the costs of moving and finding a new place to live.

This is why here at Beacon we’re so passionate about school choice and ESAs, because true choice gives every parent the opportunity to give their children the unique education that they deserve. As someone who has personally experienced the range that different schools have to offer, this National School Choice Week, let’s focus on spreading real education opportunity to all Tennesseans.