Due to tragedy in our family we were left with the task of raising Ricky, our grandson, from birth. His father died in a construction accident just after his birth; his mother had severe mental illness and was unable to care for him. So we stepped up to the plate. Shortly after this, my husband was diagnosed with liver failure requiring a transplant and I was diagnosed with lung cancer. This created a difficult situation for us trying to raise Ricky and provide him with all he needed to be a success.
School Choice Scholarships, a non-profit that provides scholarships to low-income students to attend private schools, has not only been a help with financial assistance through private donors, but also provided emotional support and offered educational classes which have helped us cope with difficult situations with Ricky.
Their program has been priceless in giving us the tools we needed to provide Ricky with what he needed to be successful. His years in private school helped him to thrive. He is a smart young man He has been an honor student through out his school years, working a year ahead through out. He was awarded The President’s Award for Educational Excellence his first year in public School. He has maintained his honor roll status in High school. He just turned 14 this month and will be a 10th grader next year. He wants to take classes to accelerate his graduation and wants to attend college. He is in the ROTC program. He wants to be a Police Officer. He is well on his way to being a productive asset to the community. In his life he has overcome a great deal of difficulty at a very young age. My husband later required still another liver transplant and Kidney as well. He has had major health issues and spent a great deal of time in the hospital still to this day. Ricky has struggled with emotional issues with the loss of his parents and our illnesses. Adding to that Ricky had been bullied while attending Crosby Middle School for a short time.
He also is diagnosed with ADHD. The struggles he’s had can make learning difficult and I attribute his success to having a strong foundation laid down in his early years of education in a private School. He needed the small classes with the one on one instruction and the close-knit family atmosphere we found in his school. When I was hospitalized with cancer and my husband was also in the hospital, it was his teacher that stepped up to care for him till I was released. These weren’t just teachers; they were our church family as well. So this close-knit atmosphere was such a support for him and us. School Choice Scholarships also played such an important role in helping us during a difficult period in our lives. They have been a true blessing. There are so many others who could benefit from this program. Unfortunately their funding is limited and unable to help all those who have need. This is where the tax credit could help bring about more funding and open doors for others who have exceptional situations that require that extra bit of help.
Please understand, I don’t discredit the public school system. There are many fine schools and great programs. Ricky attended Middletown Elementary and we loved the school and the staff. I couldn’t ask for a better school. I, myself, come from a family of educators. A history I am proud to look back on. My grandfather was a teacher and a principal, my great uncle, Gilbert C. Burkhead, was a principal and superintendent over Hardin county schools. My aunt specialized in special education in public schools; my cousin is a teacher, another cousin, a professor at Vanderbilt University. Mom taught kindergarten, my Dad was a music professor at U of L. So you see my entire family has been in the teaching profession. I taught art K4 – 10th grade for many years but had to leave due to my husband’s on-going health issues as well as my own. During the school and church’s inception I was volunteering much of my time to help them get started. This was the school Ricky attended through much of his elementary school education. His father strongly desired for his son to attend this school.
I understand the importance of having other options available to those who have special needs or circumstances. There are times that the public school system just isn’t the right fit for a child. When I was a child I struggled terribly in the public school system. I tried my hardest to do well but I was so lost. I felt like a failure and a disappointment. I hated myself and wished I had never been born. My parents saw my struggles and had me tested to find I had multiple learning disabilities, believed to be the result of my premature birth. They found a program at John J Audubon for special needs students. They had very small classes, one on one instruction, and also worked with developing motor skills. This program was a life saver for me. I went on to eventually go to a traditional school and was an honor student. Yes, it is true that today there are special ed classes within the public schools, my aunt was a part of helping that happen. However, some students need more than what they can offer. This is about providing equal opportunities to children who need that extra help. My life would have been very different if I hadn’t been able to get that extra help, Ricky’s would have been different with out all the support from School Choice and the early foundation he received.
I am asking you to please give careful consideration to pass legislation for low-income families to receive Scholarship Tax Credits. Every child deserves an opportunity to be the best they can be. The children hold our future in their hands. We need to give them the tools to be their very best.
Thank you so much for your time,