Will My Family Still Have a Choice?

January 1, 2001

January 2001

Will My Family Still Have a Choice?

By Johnietta McGrady

For parents like me, the Cleveland scholarship program is nothing short of a godsend.  As a single mother who works two part-time jobs, without vouchers, there’s no way I could afford to send my children to St. Thomas Aquinas where they are becoming well educated.  Without school choice, my children as well as so many other precious kids would be forced to attend public schools that simply don’t teach.

IJ client and Cleveland school choice mom Johnietta McGrady at home with her daughter, Trinnietta (top step, right), her son, Atlas (bottom step, right), and grandsons, Reginald (bottom step, left), and Delontae.

So much of our future is now in the hands of judges.  First the state court had to uphold the scholarship program, which allowed my daughter, Trinnietta, to continue in the program.  Then, last year, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the program to expand, which opened the door for my son, Atlas, to join his sister at a good school.  But now, two judges have ruled against the program, putting not only my own kids’ education in jeopardy, but also the education of nearly 4,000 children who need school choice if they have any hope of learning.  We are now facing the very real possibility of losing the only program that opens doors for kids the public school system would otherwise ignore.

To let that happen would be a disaster.  What those two judges refused to see when they ruled against the program was that not a single dollar for my children’s education goes to a school unless I make that decision.  I’m not being told where to send them.  The choice is all mine.

Johnietta McGrady works two part-time job. She is categorical: “Without vouchers, there’s no way we could do it.”

Like all but eight of the 300 children who attend St. Thomas Aquinas, my children are not Catholic.  I send my children there because they have teachers who care and do well by my kids, like my daughter’s teacher, Judy Demascio.  They work with me to help my children learn the basics.  They encourage one-on-one, hands-on help in smaller classes.  They are willing to do whatever it takes—including creating extra reading classes, creating small dictionaries to help their students read better, and running other programs when the school would otherwise be closed—to do what’s best for the children entrusted to them.  I certainly chose their school because I want a place with values, the moral instruction my children need.  I want their school to reinforce the respect I teach them and to have no nonsense in the classroom.  But above all else, I want to put them in a place where they will learn.

As long as there’s been a scholarship program, we’ve been blessed with the help of the Institute for Justice.  Every time there is a legal challenge, the Institute for Justice works with us and for us to keep kids of families on a fixed income in good schools.  Working together we will win and get children like mine what they deserve:  the best possible education.

Johnietta McGrady is a school choice mom from Cleveland and a client of the Institute for Justice in its defense of the Cleveland scholarship program.

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