March 1 2010

Early Hope Scholarship Would Benefit Foster and Military Children in Georgia

Vicki E. Alger

Add Georgia to the growing list of states adopting and/or expanding schools choice programs. Georgia currently has a tax-credit scholarship program that allows both individuals and business to take a credit off their state income taxes for donations to non-profit organizations that award students private-school scholarships. Georgia also lets parents of students with special needs use voucher scholarships to send them to private schools of their choice.

Last month the Georgia State Senate approved a bill that would expand the voucher program to make students from military families and students in foster care eligible, too, under the Early Hope Scholarship Program.

"I know for certain that every child can learn if placed in the right learning environment. The decision of which environment serves the child best must be placed in the hands of those who ultimately have the child's best interest in mind - the parents," said Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock), who introduced the bill earlier this month. He added:

Children of military and foster care often get shuffled from school to school and can fall behind.  By providing parents a better choice for a stable learning environment, these children will be more likely to succeed in school and in life. The successful results shown by the Special Needs Scholarship are undeniable. These children deserve to be a part of this wonderful program that places education, not bureaucracy first.

The program would benefit the children of about 110,000 military personnel working on Georgia's 14 military installations, as well as 15,000 foster children. If adopted, Georgia would be the first state to have a scholarship program for students from military families; and it would join Arizona as the second state to allow choice programs for foster-care students.

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