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Thousands of Alabama’s low-income families are craving school choice

(Video above: School choice changed the lives of Gloria McMeans and her son Keeynaad)

By Dr. Chad Mathis, Chairman of the Alabama Federation for Children

I will never forget the first time I heard Gloria McMeans talk about her son, Keenyaad.

Keenyaad had always been an excellent student. He was incredibly bright and progressing faster than most in his classes. But something happened when he changed schools to the new middle school he was zoned to attend. He stopped wanting to go to school in the morning. He started getting into trouble. Gloria started receiving calls from his school on a regular basis. After having a long talk with her son, she found out he was being picked on, being called a nerd for wanting to learn at a faster pace. He was bored with learning the same things day after day. In his words, “I was just wanting to keep on rolling.”

Gloria knew she had to do something. She had always been involved with her child’s education through the PTA advocating for her son, but nothing seemed to work. So she made the decision to move into the housing projects, allowing her to use the money she would have used for rent to go to sending Keenyaad to a private school. It was a sacrifice she was willing to make to get her son the education he deserved. But it was still a struggle financially, and there were a lot of months that she struggled coming up with the tuition.

After the passage of the Alabama Accountability Act in 2013, Gloria was one of the first people to apply for a scholarship. When she received the award letter, confirming her son’s tuition would be paid for through the Tax Credit Scholarship Program, she cried tears of joy. Her words – “When I looked at these papers and I could see my baby could go to school, I didn’t think it was possible. But now I know and see my son is getting a better education.” Thanks to Gloria’s ability to choose the school that works best for her son, Keeynaad is excited about going to school again and making excellent grades.

Keeynaad’s story is one of the many reasons I decided to get involved with the school choice movement in Alabama, and more specifically as Chairman of the Alabama Federation for Children.

Gloria and Keeynaad’s story is not unique. There are thousands of low-income families in Alabama who have been able to choose a school that best fits the particular needs of their child thanks to the scholarship program.

That is why we will be at the State Capitol in Montgomery on Tuesday, January 26th celebrating National School Choice Week. We will be celebrating stories like Keeynaad’s, about how having a choice can change a student’s future.

Alabama has many great public schools, but even the best school isn’t going to be the best fit for every child. And who knows what a student needs better than their parents. I hope you will join us on the 26th for our Capitol Celebration, as we celebrate all that has been done over the past few years to give parents more options in their child’s education.

I trust parents. I believe in giving them the options. And I hope you will join me in this cause.

Dr. Chad Mathis is the chairman of the Alabama Federation for Children