What I learned in P.E. class

(Guest post by Jonathan Butcher)

A few months ago, I grabbed my tennis shoes and went to my son’s last P.E. class of the year, which happened to be a “parent participation” day. This P.E. class is a program for homeschool students, so children of all ages and backgrounds were there to have relay races and play dodge ball.

I had the chance to run around that day with Jordan Visser, a young man I met about a year ago when his mom, Kathy, signed him up for one of Arizona’s education savings accounts. Regular readers of this blog will recognize his name and story from this post.

Jordan is a quiet kid, but he’s got a big smile and plays as hard as any of the other boys. From the video available on the link above, you will learn that Jordan has mild cerebral palsy and has a hard time with is balance—or at least, he did at one time. Since he’s been using the savings account, he’s seen specialists and used therapeutic horseback riding lessons to help his motor coordination, paid for with the education savings account. The account has also helped Jordan’s parents find individual tutors to help with subjects like math and reading.

Now, having run alongside him in a relay where we grabbed a sponge out of a bucket, squeezed it into a cup, then handed it off to the next person, let me be the first to say Jordan’s quality of life has dramatically improved. If you didn’t know Jordan’s story and were watching the PE class from the sidelines, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between Jordan and the other kids who were soaking wet and laughing.

Vouchers and tax credits have helped children like Jordan, along with students in failing schools and from low-income households, all over the country for more than 20 years. Education savings accounts use a student’s funds from the state formula to give families the same great educational choices as vouchers and scholarships—and more. The flexibility that parents have to meet their child’s unique needs with an account is unprecedented. Parents can buy online classes, pay private school tuition, buy textbooks, and save for college, to name just a few possible uses.

Lindsey Burke and I wrote a special report that was released today explaining the benefits of the accounts’ flexibility. We also propose ways in which vouchers and scholarships can be enhanced by education savings accounts:

  • Creating public school education savings accounts. Parents could use a public school education savings account for traditional school classes, public charter school offerings, public virtual schools such as the Florida Virtual School, community colleges, or state universities.
  • Shifting existing school voucher or scholarship tax credit funds to an education savings account. States with existing voucher programs or scholarship tax credit programs should allow parents to deposit voucher or scholarship funds into an education savings account in order to gain more flexibility with their child’s funds.
  • Expanding the approved expenses covered by a voucher or private school scholarship. This would include expanding the uses of a school voucher or scholarship, transitioning the program into an education savings account.

Jordan’s education savings account changed his life, and it didn’t take an increase in funding, school turnaround plan, or district consolidation. Let’s keep school choice out front and give all parents the flexibility to help their children, whatever their needs are.

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