Save Our ESA: ‘Families depend on it.’
“I don’t want to think of what Landon’s life might look like without (the ESA).”
A small rural town in Northern Mississippi has much to offer the Morrow family. Unfortunately, Pope, Mississippi, is not able to offer a public education that meets the needs of their middle son Landon.
Struggles in the classroom have been something Landon has dealt with most of his life. His parents Ginger and Tim Morrow enrolled Landon in a small private school in Batesville where he stayed from pre-kindergarten through the third grade.
Early on, Landon was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD.
“He had a resource teacher at the private school who helped us make accommodations for him,” Ginger said. “He has always had good resource teachers who understand his need for those accommodations.”
With two other children, the Morrows made the decision to move Landon to the local public elementary school when he entered the fourth grade in hopes that he would do well and that Landon could be with his twin sister Lilly.
“From there, the kids go to a high school which is huge,” said Ginger. “We don’t have our own high school here.”
As Landon got older the challenges in school only increased. Knowing that he needed more specialized attention than what he would receive in a large school environment like that of his assigned high school, Ginger began looking for options.
“His resource teacher told us about the ESA,” she said, “and we applied.”
The Special Needs Education Scholarship Account (ESA) allows parents to direct a portion of their state tax dollars to the setting and services that best fit their child’s needs.
Landon received an ESA in December of 2017 and moved back to the private school he had previously attended.
“The ESA has been wonderful for tuition,” said Ginger. “Landon is doing well in school. The small classrooms and one-on-one attention work best for him.”
Landon is in 11th grade now and thriving. As Ginger sees her son experience success in a setting that works best for him, the moment is bittersweet when she thinks back on the educational experiences of her oldest son Laken. Now 20, Laken did not receive the same opportunity provided through an ESA.
“The program was not around when he was in school,” she said, “and he struggled so much.”
Laken attended his assigned public high school where he never got to experience what it was like to be a successful student.
“It was really difficult to watch,” said Ginger. “There’s so much testing at the public school, and he did not do well with it. It seemed like he was singled out for the difficulties he was having.”
Laken was put into a special education classroom.
“It was horrible. He was singled out and it hurt his self-esteem.”
Unfortunately, Laken did not finish school.
“We pulled him out and homeschooled him for a while, but it was too late. He did not finish.”
Ginger believes wholeheartedly that his education would have looked completely different if Laken had been given the same opportunity as Landon thanks to the ESA.
“This is an important program,” said Ginger. “Families depend on it, and it is life-changing for the students who are a part of it. We know Landon is right where he needs to be, and we also know that things could have been much different for Laken if he had been able to be a part of this program.
Families like the Morrows are concerned that the popular ESA program, passed as a five-year pilot program, will die this year without action from the state legislature to save it. So far, legislative efforts to keep the ESA program in place beyond 2020 have failed, leaving parents in the dark about their children’s futures.
“The ESA is very important to us. We are praying that it will continue,” said Ginger. “I don’t want to think of what Landon’s life might look like without it. We need this ESA.”
Click here to sign the petition to #SaveOurESA for families like the Morrows.