Public schooling might work for some, but not for Addison McKee’s family. McKee’s stepson, one of four children, languished in public schools. Staff there didn’t properly deal with her son’s difficulties. After a certain point they just left him behind. Looking back, McKee says she wishes she had other educational options earlier so her stepson could’ve gotten helped sooner.
Her stepson’s experience weighed on McKee’s mind when she chose to homeschool her four-and-five-year-old children. McKee believes by educating her two younger students herself, she can make sure they get individualized attention and receive a more well-rounded education. But providing a quality education from your kitchen table is expensive. For McKee, choosing to spend more on educational resources could mean less money for groceries or bills.
“We have money to survive but schooling is not cheap,” said McKee, who lives in Rio Hondo, a town of 2,000 in south Texas.
McKee and others believe families across Texas, especially in rural areas like the Rio Grande Valley, shouldn’t be forced to choose between putting food on the table and making sure their children get a quality education. That’s why they’re advocating for Texas lawmakers to enact education savings accounts (ESAs).
ESAs are a popular type of educational choice. Unlike other programs, parents can use ESAs to tailor their child’s schooling to meet his or her needs. Parents can use money deposited into their ESA to pay for tutoring, curriculum use at home, online instruction, and private school tuition. ESA funds are directed by parents, and schools receive money only if parents choose them.
ESAs empower families with the financial means to ensure their student receives an exceptional education. Especially in rural areas, ESAs allow families to pursue paths that might not exist otherwise.
Moreover, ESAs don’t harm public schools or their funding. Funding for ESAs doesn’t come from existing public-education budgets. While most students choose to stay in public school even when an ESA exists, having an ESA as an additional educational option empowers parents to direct their child’s education.
“Having an [ESA] would make more enriching opportunities available to my child – things that are specifically tailored to their interests and their current educational level,” McKee said.
McKee’s five-year-old son is captivated by space right now, she said. The moon, stars, planets—it’s all he talks about. It’s too early to tell if he’ll end up working for NASA, but McKee wants to capitalize on the opportunity. She’s trying to find an astrophysicist to host a class.
Whether it’s going to a planetarium or finding an expert to inspire her kids, providing valuable opportunities for her children to learn is important to McKee. But without an ESA, those moments might be out of reach. Luckily, earlier this month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called Texas lawmakers back to the Legislature for a special session to consider ESAs. The outcome of that session could make all the difference to McKee and thousands of other families in Texas.
McKee and others are trying to do their part to bring about ESAs. McKee herself has attended and hosted events to urge lawmakers to support ESAs. The entire process has been eye opening, McKee said, seeing the sheer number of people who need access to programs like ESAs.
“When you know something is really important in your heart, you do it whether there is support or not. You just commit to making it happen,” McKee said.
About the Institute for Justice
The Institute for Justice is the national law firm for liberty that defends the rights of Americans all over the country, including those who want the choice in where and how their children are educated. From suing the FBI to get people’s property returned to them, to helping families across the country obtain access to ESAs and other educational choice programs, IJ aims to protect everyday Americans’ civil liberties free of charge. For more information on the Institute for Justice and its work, visit www.ij.org.