We live in area blessed with two excellent school systems in Fayette and Coweta counties. I have enthusiastically advocated for them on these pages. However, my focus is quality education for Georgia’s children.
Some believe, that education is a competition between public, private, and homeschool and one can support only one of the three paths at the exclusion of the other two. I used to believe that as well. I was wrong. The simple fact is that different students react differently in various environments and some students may benefit more from a non public approach.
There is a general voucher bill in the Georgia Senate (SB 233) I will cover in a few weeks. But today I wanted to share my journey with vouchers.
In 2009, we had just passed our first Fayette County ESPLOST and our schools were financially vulnerable. I had the opportunity to meet Ga. Senator Eric Johnson (R – Savannah ) author of SB10 which provides vouchers for children with special educational needs and are subject to an individual education plan (IEP).
I met him at our PTC Starbucks as part of his campaign for governor. I explained that I thought his plan took money from public education to benefit fewer people. That year, my son Jackson was a kindergartener at PTC Elementary School and it turns out God has a sense of irony.
Thanks to his wonderful 1st grade teacher, my son was identified as having a learning disability and received an IEP. He has a processing disorder which he has overcome to be a successful student, but we were concerned as he was getting ready for Middle School and another Fayette County teacher told us about SB10 vouchers.
We found that Trinity Christian School had a different approach to students with learning disabilities called “skills” and decided to use a SB10 voucher to get our son the environment he needed. We found the amount of the voucher on the SB10 website and it was only for the amount Georgia gave Fayette County for our son. Each student has a different amount.
While I had reservations advocating for public education while I was choosing private school for my child, but that went away one fall day. I picked my son up from football practice and while driving home he said “You know, Dad, I’m not stupid, I can do this.” We never knew he thought that before.
The voucher did not cover all of the tuition, but the financial cost to our family was well worth it. Jackson is a successful college student in a small college in South Carolina.
I have seen some kids do great at Trinity as well as Landmark, Heritage, The Campus, the Foundry as well as others. Some kids have moved between more than one of these and some returned to public school. Many of these students had no voucher and their parents paid the cost.
My point is that if we are truly interested in the educational well being of our students, the answer must be public AND private AND homeschool as options and must be addressed as part of Georgia’s constitutional obligation to fund adequate basic education.
[Neil Sullivan is a finance/accounting executive and CPA. He has lived in Peachtree City over 20 years with his wife Jennifer, a Fayette County History teacher and son Jackson, a sophomore at Erskine College. He has been active in public school related issues in Fayette County, leading three E-SPLOST initiatives as chairman of Fayette Citizens for Children. He has appeared previously on these pages in letters to the editor.]