Akia McNeary: It’s past time for Kentucky to embrace school choice, unlock opportunities for all students

Numbers, statistics, dollar signs — people like to talk a whole lot about charts and diagrams when you bring up school choice or educational freedom. But to parents across Kentucky, this issue is a lot more personal. It’s definitely more personal than that to me.

When my youngest son, Nehemiah, was in preschool, I enrolled him in Zion Christian Academy. However, because of financial issues, I had to make the very hard decision to transfer my son back to his local public school when he reached Kindergarten.

Because of the foundation laid at ZCA, he was ahead of his peers in the classroom. Over the next two years, I noticed my son’s education was slipping. He couldn’t read at grade level, his behavior was on a decline, and he wasn’t being challenged like he needed to be. My oldest son Ramone had faced the same difficulty years earlier when we had to pull him out of his nonpublic school, also for financial reasons. I knew I didn’t want Nehemiah to have to go down the same road.

Again, our family made a hard decision, and enrolled him back at ZCA in second grade. He was behind all of his classmates in reading, spelling, and cursive writing but three years later, he is now thriving as a ZCA fifth grader.

Every child is different, and they have different needs. For Nehemiah, ZCA clearly clicked with him—and our family has been determined ever since to make sure he can stay there. My husband works two jobs and I work a full-time job to make sure our children have access to the education they need.

The financial struggle is worth it, without a doubt, but it is hard on my family. Creating Education Opportunity Accounts (EOAs) will bring much-needed relief to Kentucky families with limited options.

I can share story after story just from my own experience that points to the importance of passing legislation like HB 149 and SB 25. But for anyone interested only in numbers, here are a few important ones:

Two — number of private school tuitions my family will be paying for in the next school year
• >$9,000 — the amount of money Boone County schools spends per student, per year
• $4,500 — annual tuition to Zion Christian Academy, per student
• 77% — percentage of rural KY voters who want educational freedom
65% — percentage of ALL likely statewide voters who want educational freedom
31 — number of states that have passed educational freedom legislation
• 425,000 — number of Kentucky K-12 students who stand to benefit from EOAs being passed

Kentucky families are desperate for relief. It’s time for EOAs to be passed and state legislators to unlock educational opportunities for students of all backgrounds.

Boone County resident Akia McNeary is the parent of two school-age children, one of whom attends Zion Christian Academy and the other beginning kindergarten next year.

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