There are few things more important to me than the quality of my children's schools. After all, I know that a great education is crucial to their success as adults.
I also believe that parents know their kids better than anyone else, and should be able to decide what is best for them.
Fortunately for me, I happen to live in a neighborhood with schools that meet the needs of my kids. But many families across Tennessee are not as lucky. Thousands of students across the state are forced to attend schools that are failing or otherwise inadequate.
That's why I support HB190, a bill that would provide opportunity scholarships to low-income students in failing situations. This would allow those students to attend a school because it fits their needs. Creating these scholarships would go a long way towards guaranteeing all of Tennessee's students a great education.
I admit that opportunity scholarships sounded unnecessary to me at first. Why would the state provide money to families to help them pay for schools when all students already have schools to attend?
But then I put myself in the position of the many parents in Tennessee whose children are stuck in failing situations. I know that I would demand a better option so my children could get a great education.
And if I would want that choice, how could I deny it to other families?
The idea behind HB190 is pretty simple. Taxpayer education dollars are already designated for each student and sent to their school district. But with this legislation, families would be able to choose to use that money to pay for a different school – empowering them with a variety of options.
When you think about it, it's common sense. All parents know that no two kids are the same – they have different interests, learning styles, and needs. It follows that a school that is right for one child might not be a good fit for another.
Yet currently our education system gives families little choice about the schools their children attend, unless they can afford to move to a different neighborhood or pay for private school out of pocket. That's just not right. Parents in failing situations should be able to choose a school that meets the needs of their child.
The Tennessee General Assembly has a golden opportunity to fix this. By passing HB190, they can give families the education choices they need and deserve.
It's true that this bill may face opposition from special interests that are committed to maintaining the status quo. But I have a message for our legislators: imagine if your own child were receiving an inadequate education. Wouldn't you want an opportunity to choose a different school? If the answer is "yes," you should support the bill.
As a parent and proud Tennessean, creating a great education system that truly serves all kids is a priority for me. By passing HB190, we can take a big step towards that goal.
(Colessia Porter is a Memphis parent and a member of StudentsFirst Tennessee.)