Reverend Dr. Walter Womack is the president of the Memphis chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a civil rights organization founded by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. Womack is a strong believer that school choice will help children, particularly children of color, have access to the quality education that works for them and enables them to reach their full potential. Here’s an opinion piece Dr. Womack wrote in the Memphis Commercial Appeal expressing his support for Tennessee’s Education Savings Account program:
Education Savings Accounts celebrate Memphis children’s uniqueness
Every child is unique. God made them in His image – each with different abilities, traits, and attributes. Their uniqueness is something to be celebrated, not stifled. Yet when our children enter the education system, they’re often forced to check their uniqueness at the door.
Our current educational system is one-size-fits-all. Too often, one-size-fits-all ends up fitting no one. We need our kids to be able to have a number of quality options where they can find the best setting to learn and grow.
The way we can give them those options is through school choice – like public charter schools and Education Savings Accounts that parents can use to send their kids to an independent school.
80% of kids graduate from school, but only 18% are ready for college
Parents with financial means have options, those with limited financial means do not. Education Savings Accounts give low-income families the same choices in their kids’ education that wealthy families already enjoy. School choice gives our low-income kids the same opportunity to succeed.
We have hardworking educators here in Shelby county. Yet the results speak for themselves. Only one in every five students can read at grade level. We graduate nearly 80% of our students, but only 18% are actually ready for college. Our system is setting many of our children up to fail – and that’s unacceptable.
And it’s not just about the money. Shelby County spends more dollars per student than any other county in the state. Maybe we should focus on how that money’s being spent rather than how much.
School choice needs to be part of a larger effort. We can’t get our education system back on track unless we put an emphasis on the family. We must work to ensure that each child goes home to a stable household where his parents are making a living wage and can take time to help their sons and daughters with their homework.
ESAs aren’t the only answer, but they are a tool in the education toolkit
Giving these kids the opportunity to go to a better school can help them break the cycle of poverty, get an education, go to college, and support their families. We can’t delay any longer – the time for school choice is now.
Pastor John DeBerry, Jr. represents the people of inner-city Memphis in the Tennessee House of Representatives. He’s right when he says this issue is not about Democrat or Republican, black or white — it’s about kids and doing what’s best for them and their families.
For many children here in Memphis the best thing for them is an Education Savings Account. Rep. DeBerry is a strong advocate for giving ESAs and school choice to our children.
I support Education Savings Accounts not because they are the only answer, but because they are one of many tools we can use to improve our education system as a whole. Let’s let these children’s passion for learning burn bright, not snuff it out before it can even begin. That’s why I support ESAs, and I hope you will too.