Opinion: Parents in rural Georgia want school choice for their kids

Many parents support vouchers to provide educational options for their children. (Courtesy of Fred Squillante)



Many parents support vouchers to provide educational options for their children. (Courtesy of Fred Squillante)

Lauren Elsberry, a nurse in Walker County, resides in Chattooga County. Her son attends school in Walker County. She is with the Georgia parent organization Moms for Liberty of Chattooga County.

In this guest column, Elsberry calls for state lawmakers to pass legislation that would expand access to school vouchers.

My husband and I live in a rural county in northwest Georgia. We have a 1-year-old and a first grader. We are blessed with a partial scholarship for our oldest son to attend a Christian school near my job.

The primary reason we enrolled him in a private school is the shocking cultural changes that have made their way to rural Georgia public schools. It’s also the reason why many parents like us outside of metro Atlanta are searching for school choice options for their kids.

At the local high school, for example, students are not allowed to show public displays of affection. Faculty and administrators don’t permit it.

Except, parents are still hearing from students and staff that the rule is not enforced with students who publicly identify as LGBTQ. It is something that has many parents questioning our local school board; what is going on when it comes to the local policies concerning discipline and public displays of affection.

My niece attends school in our county and is having to endure the uncomfortable challenge of witnessing a female, who “identifies as a male,” use the male restroom. Parents are questioning this as well, but she tells us the issue is continuing. That is unacceptable, and her parents deserve options to enroll her in a school more appropriate for her to learn.

These are just a few examples of the social upheaval now trickling down into rural public schools. They are a huge distraction from the mission of schools — learning.

Living outside metro Atlanta, parents like us never thought we would have to worry about what our kids would be exposed to when they were dropped off at school each day. Many of us believe these changes in school culture are unsafe and open up a tremendous amount of risk for kids.

That’s why parents like me are urging the General Assembly this year to adopt “The Georgia Promise Scholarship Act that would allow many Georgia parents to pick a learning environment that best suits their needs. Not all kids learn best in what is considered a “traditional” environment, and with the culture of our public schools changing rapidly, learning is further inhibited by distractions designed to indoctrinate our children through the “woke” agenda.

Lauren Elsberry is with the Georgia parent organization Moms for Liberty of Chattooga County. Contributed photo.

Credit: Contributed

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Credit: Contributed

Senate Bill 233, which could be voted on in the Georgia House of Representatives this month, would give $6,500 to students who qualify to pay for tuition and fees, tutoring, therapy, curriculum, textbooks, and even limited transportation.

Parental school choice is a basic freedom. Nobody tells me what to feed my children, how to dress them, in what extracurricular activities to enroll, what pediatrician to use, or what medicines to give them when they are sick. So why, as parents, are we only offered one option when it comes to where they attend school?

Were it not for the partial scholarship we receive, we would be unable to send our son to the school we feel is the best choice for his education and learning needs. I work as a nursing instructor and my husband works in local government. We are not high-paid executives nor do we come from families with large amounts of generational wealth who can afford rising tuition. We also have a second child who will enter school in a few years. We would like the opportunity to use some of our education tax dollars designated for our children to pay for the education we, as parents, believe suits our children best.

Unfortunately, children attend public school based on where they live. Only those who can afford to pay for private school tuition or move to a better school district can find a more appropriate school setting.

“The Georgia Promise Scholarship Act” has the support of Gov. Brian Kemp. The Georgia Senate already adopted it last year. Unfortunately, it has been stuck in the Georgia House due to a lack of support by some Georgia lawmakers.

What I would like to tell rural lawmakers is school choice is a parental need that transcends this state. Every parent should have the ability to pick an appropriate school — whether that be to get the best academic program or one with the least cultural distractions.

No matter where you are in Georgia, it doesn’t seem you can escape the woke culture infiltrating our schools. Teachers and administrators are too afraid of the backlash and want to be politically correct. Those paying the price are the 99% of students who just want to learn to read and write.

Parents like me call on Georgia lawmakers — especially those from rural parts of the state — to support school choice once and for all. Give those of us who care about our kids the freedom to move to a school that reflects our values and lets our kids learn.