“Georgia’s Special Needs Scholarship saved my oldest daughter’s life.”

Yet another compelling story about how the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship impacted a family, and why it’s awesome SB 386 passed the house, and now we need it to pass the Senate.

We have so many similar stories with our families that we completely understand their plights and advocate for these types of scholarships.

“Vivian was diagnosed with ADHD and a deficit in working memory in fourth grade. We obtained a 504 plan in fifth grade. This is a blueprint for supporting students with disabilities that allows them to continue learning alongside their peers, but our local public schools lacked the resources to provide that support when she entered middle school… 

“…Our once extroverted, tenderhearted child who was endlessly optimistic became angry, sullen and withdrawn. What she admitted to us later was alarming and heartbreaking: She had begun to have suicidal thoughts…

“…We decided we could not wait any longer and paid out of pocket for a private evaluation with a psychologist to help speed up the process. 

“Once her results were evaluated, the psychologist found several learning differences that would require an IEP. Unfortunately, it would be five months before an IEP would be written and by that time, Vivian had already failed sixth grade…

“…With the aid of the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship, Vivian began private school at the beginning of seventh grade.

“The difference was seen within the first three days of attendance. She began to thrive in an environment that taught subjects in multiple formats and gave individualized attention to her needs. They not only met the requirements of her evaluation but, in many ways, exceeded them.

“…But not all families have those resources. Senate Bill 386, which passed the Senate today, would strengthen the scholarship and break down barriers that families of special needs students face.”

Julia Mitchell Rohan

Read more about Vivian’s Story HERE. We have so many similar stories at Brookwood. You can read Mellie’s Story (our 2019 Valedictorian) in our 2018-2019 Annual Report, as well as HERE, and Blake’s Story in our 2017-2018 Annual Report, both are compelling, and the statistics for students who do not get appropriate reading instruction are grim, and outlined in the Progress Reports in both stories. You can also see the statistics regarding the success of our programs HERE.

Please CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVE and ask them to support SB 386 so that all Georgia students with special needs have access to a school where they can thrive, and tell them your story if it applies! 

Get to Know Families Impacted by Georgia’s Special Needs Scholarship.

#SayDyslexia #UntilEveryoneCanRead #1in5

SB 386 Passed the Senate!

Senate Bill 386 passed! Please take a moment to thank the senators who voted to support this legislation! Click HERE to find your senator.

You can read the full bill HERE.

Thanks to all of you who reached out to your senators! 🙂

SB 386 Update

SB 386 passed the Senate Education & Youth Committee 6-4 and now awaits scheduling for a vote by the full Senate.

Ms. Noelle spoke before the committee last week and you can read her story HERE.

Many of our families at Brookwood Christian rely on the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship to ensure their child receives the services they need, as dyslexia, and many other language processing concerns, are not adequately addressed, if at all, in public school. Several other families need this scholarship but because they could not wait an extra year to address their child’s needs, they are ineligible. Passage of this bill may allow them to receive the scholarship. You can read more about it HERE.

Please CONTACT YOUR SENATOR and ask them to support SB 386 so that all Georgia students with special needs have access to a school where they can thrive, and tell them your story if it applies! 

You can read Mellie’s Story in our 2018-2019 Annual Report, and Blake’s Story in our 2017-2018 Annual Report, both are compelling, and the statistics for students who do not get appropriate reading instruction are grim, and outlined in the Progress Reports in both stories. You can also see the statistics regarding the success of our programs HERE.

Get to Know Families Impacted by Georgia’s Special Needs Scholarship.

If you have any questions, feel free to email Ms. Kim for clarification.

Read about other legislation that may impact our school HERE.




Ms. Noelle Tells Her Story to the Georgia Senate

On Wednesday, February 26, the day after Dyslexia Day at the Capitol, Ms. Noelle spoke before the Senate Education & Youth Committee regarding Senate Bill 386 and its possible impact on the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship (SB10). Her story, along with so many others, is so compelling that we wanted to share it. Below is her speech. If you would like your story featured, please EMAIL it, along with a picture.

“Thank you for taking the time to listen to me and my story.


“Let me introduce myself. I am Noelle Smith. I have a BA in Architectural Studies and a Master of Library and Information Science degree. I am a divorced mother of 3 young women, and we live in Acworth. My oldest daughter, Cheyenne, is studying to be a commercial pilot and graduated in 2011 from Harrison High School in Cobb County. My middle child, Charlotte, is a senior at Kennesaw State University and is studying Electrical Engineering and Mechatronics. She graduated in 2015 as valedictorian from Brookwood Christian School in Cobb County. My youngest, Collette, is a junior studying Neuroscience/pre-med at the Georgia Institute of Technology and graduated in 2018 as 4th in her class from Harrison High School. We were a military family for 22 years and stayed in Georgia after my ex retired from the Marine Corps.


“My daughter Charlotte and all the other children with learning disabilities are who I am here to represent today. Let me tell you Charlotte’s story. We had known since she was 5 that there was something going on with her ability to learn letters. They just did not make sense to her. I tried to have her tested at the schools we were at; however, this was immediately after 9/11 so we were transferred to Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana in quick succession. Charlotte received her first IEP in 2004 and a diagnosis of dyslexia.


“In 2006, we moved to Atlanta. Charlotte was in 4th grade. I immediately began the process of having a new IEP issued. At this point, she attended Vaughan Elementary in Powder Springs. She loved school but struggled because she was different and could not read more than simple words at this point. I knew unless she received intensive, one-on-one specialized instruction, she was going to be lost in the public school system and maybe never be able to read. I began to look for a school that specialized in helping students with learning disabilities. I found Brookwood Christian School in Acworth.


“Luckily, Charlotte had an IEP in place and the state of Georgia had just begun the SB10 program. This scholarship enabled me to place my child in a small school with specialized instruction and small classroom sizes. Best of all, all the students had a learning disability of some kind, so everyone was on a level playing field. She thrived.


“When Charlotte was in the 9th grade, my husband and I divorced. He was unwilling to help with her private education, so the SB10 scholarship literally saved my child. I am a teacher and my income was not enough to keep her in a private school. She was able to stay at Brookwood Christian School only because of the SB10 Scholarship. I knew fighting to keep her at Brookwood was worth all the hardships when she began reading books for pleasure. Now she is excelling at Kennesaw State University and has a 3.52 GPA.


“I fell into teaching because my child needed me, and as a teacher of students with learning disabilities, I have seen how the SB10 has changed lives. There are many success stories to hear. There could be many more. I have seen students that want to attend Brookwood Christian be unable to because their families were unable to pay the tuition. Many of these students had a 504. Many returned to the public school system in an attempt to obtain an IEP.  Some were successful at gaining an IEP and were able to enter Brookwood Christian. I have seen several who were unable to obtain an IEP. I remember one such student who dropped out of school. I fear for him. He has fallen between the cracks.


“I ask that you please expand this program to include all children with disabilities; be a part of the success stories. 


“I appreciate your time. Thank you.”

~Noelle Pearson

And THANK YOU Ms. Noelle, for taking the time to advocate for our students and other special needs students!

You can also read Mellie’s Story in our 2018-2019 Annual Report, and Blake’s Story in our 2017-2018 Annual Report, both are compelling, and the statistics for students who do not get appropriate reading instruction are grim, and outlined in the Progress Reports in both stories. You can also see the statistics regarding the success of our programs HERE.

Get to Know Families Impacted by Georgia’s Special Needs Scholarship.

Noelle Smith, Teacher, Brookwood Christian School.

#SayDyslexia #UntilEveryoneCanRead #1in5 

Dyslexia Day at the Capitol 2020

Yesterday, Ms. Kim & Ms. Tammy went to the capitol for Dyslexia Day 2020 and this year they took two students, Will & Krissy. Both students were able to see how the legislative process works, as well as interact with advocates and lobbyists for dyslexia and other special needs students.

In addition to speaking with the leaders at other dyslexia schools, we spoke with other advocates for dyslexia including groups such as Decoding Dyslexia-Georgia and International Dyslexia Association-Georgia Chapter, and Meredith Pope, Mrs. Georgia US Continental, who volunteered her time to read to our students on Dr. Seuss Day last year.

We were also able to speak to Representative Ed Setzler (House District 35) and Senator Lindsey Tippens (Senate District 37), both of whom represent the school’s district and are very supportive of our mission. Senator Tippens is Will’s grandfather! 🙂

There are currently 2 new bills being introduced this legislative term, as well as the possibility of reconsideration of one that did not pass last term. They are briefly summarized here and you can link to our more detailed posts about each of them.

Senate Bill 386 will make it easier to get the Georgia Special needs Scholarship, as well as open up possibility of appeals and more access for those already receiving it or who have been denied a medical waiver.

House Bill 939 will amend HB 217, which raised the cap on the Georgia Tax Credit Scholarship from $58 million, to $100 million. HB 217 has the cap reverting back to $58 million and HB 939 would eliminate that.

Senate Bill 173 is up for reconsideration during this legislative session and would allow parents to use funds earmarked for public education to pay for qualified education expenses, including private school tuition.

Please CONTACT YOUR SENATOR and REPRESENTATIVE and ask them to support these bills so that our families have the financial assistance they need so their children can go to school where they can thrive AND LEARN! Tell them your story if it applies! 

You can read Mellie’s Story in our 2018-2019 Annual Report, and Blake’s Story in our 2017-2018 Annual Report, both are compelling, and the statistics for students who do not get appropriate reading instruction are grim, and outlined in the Progress Reports in both stories. You can also see the statistics regarding the success of our programs HERE.

Left to Right: Senator Lindsey Tippens, Will Resh (student), Kim Wigington (Principal), Krissy Nagel (student), Tammy Urban (Director of Development), and Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan
Left to Right: Krissy Nagel (student), Mrs. Georgia US Continental – Meredith Pope (Dyslexia Advocate), Kim Wigington (Principal), Will Resh (Student), Representative Ed Setzler.


Senate Bill 173 up for Reconsideration

Senate Bill 173 is up for reconsideration during this legislative session. The bill addresses  Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) and was introduced last session and defeated 28-25.

The bill would allow parents to use funds earmarked for public education to pay for qualified education expenses, including private school tuition. This would not be dependent on an IEP or 504, though we are not clear if this could supplement other scholarships or if receiving others, students may not be eligible for this. We will update as we find out.

Bills such as this would greatly benefit so many of our families. Most of our students, 93%, receive some sort of financial assistance, and over 40% receive at least 2 sources of financial assistance. The largest funding source is the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship (SB10) with other sources including: Georgia Tax Credit Scholarship, Easter Seals, and other Foundation Scholarships

Having an additional option for many families would help students receive the services they desperately need without a financial burden on their families.


House Bill 939

Georgia House Bill 939 will keep the cap on Georgia’s Tax Credit Scholarship program at $100 million. House Bill 217 (March 2018) made a cap increase from $58 million to $100 million. However, the bill has the cap returning to $58 million by 2029.

We realize this is not an immediate concern, but we also realize how much this scholarship benefits many of our families, and want to keep it as an option for our younger students who may still be enrolled at that time, as well as future students.

The $58 million cap was first exceeded in 2016 (2015 pledge year), which had the approved pledged amounts diminished to keep the totals under the cap. At that time, the approval rate was 91% of what was pledged. During the 2017 and 2018 cycle, the approval rates were 42% and 55%, respectively.

Last year, 2019, we saw not only a marked increase in pledges (42%) over the previous year, with the cap increase, it generated 146% more scholarship money for our students, many of whom would not be able to attend without this assistance.

The chart below shows how amazing our families are, the increase in pledging support as well as fulfilling their commitment. In each instance where the yellow bar (fulfillment) does not meet the red bar (approved amount), there was an unexpected financial situation that reduced the amount they were able to contribute, which is entirely understandable.

As we are embarking on 15 years of helping students reach their full reading potential (you can see our RESULTS), our ultimate goal is to have no child unable to attend because of his/her family’s financial situation. This scholarship, as well as our fundraising events, are essential for that endeavor. The graph below clearly shows the negative impact the $58 million cap had, where red & yellow were considerably below the blue (pledged amount) for 2017 & 2018.

PLEASE REACH OUT to your Representative and share this information.

Also, the 2020 cap has not been met! You can still help!

Click HERE for MORE INFORMATION and HERE to PLEDGE

#UntilEveryoneCanRead #1in5

Senate Bill 386 to Improve SB10 Scholarship

Senator Renee S. Unterman – R (45th District) has filed a bill that would improve SB10 (Georgia Special Needs Scholarship):

  • making it easier for families to enter the program
    • allowing students with 504 plans to be eligible, 
    • moving the one year requirement back to special needs pre-school,
    • creating a waiver for students adopted from foster care, and

  • would also make it easier for families already in the program
    • would base scholarship on most recent IEP–instead of Oct,
    • would give parents an appeal process, and 
    • would allow students who leave the program to enter back into it without having to repeat the one year!

This would ensure the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship reaches more eligible students by raising awareness for families, cutting red tape, and lowering barriers that frustrate efforts to enroll.

Ms. Noelle will be going to the capitol TOMORROW to tell her story about her daughter, Charlotte, as it will be addressed in committee. We will keep you updated as we learn more.

Many of our families at Brookwood Christian rely on this scholarship to ensure their child receives the services they need, as dyslexia, and many other language processing concerns, are not adequately addressed, if at all, in public school. 

Please CONTACT YOUR SENATOR and ask them to support SB 386 so that all Georgia students with special needs have access to a school where they can thrive, and tell them your story if it applies! 

You can read Mellie’s Story in our 2018-2019 Annual Report, and Blake’s Story in our 2017-2018 Annual Report, both are compelling, and the statistics for students who do not get appropriate reading instruction are grim, and outlined in the Progress Reports in both stories. You can also see the statistics regarding the success of our programs HERE.

Get to Know Families Impacted by Georgia’s Special Needs Scholarship.

If you have any questions, feel free to email Ms. Kim for clarification.

SB 48 Passed the House!

Senate Bill 48, a mandate that elementary schools screen for dyslexia, has just passed the House unanimously. It also passed the Senate unanimously in February. The mandate would be contingent upon state funding. The bill also seeks to train teachers. Thanks to advocates such as Decoding Dyslexia-Georgia and International Dyslexia Association-Georgia Chapter. We would like to thank Ed Setzler, the representative for the school’s district, and a committee member, who supported the legislation, as well as Lindsey Tippens, the senator for the school’s district, who also supported it!

The bill originally would have required all kindergartners be screened beginning the 20-21 school year. However the House pushed that back to begin in the 2024 school year, to allow time for the state to research methods. The state school superintendent will have to pick at least three school districts for a pilot program starting in the fall of 2020.

This will also allow the Professional Standards Commission to establish a special credential for teachers who’ve been trained to recognize dyslexia and to address it. They would also establish standards for teacher preparation programs offering dyslexia training.

More HERE.

#SayDyslexia #UntilEveryoneCanRead

HB 301 Introduced this Week

Georgia HB 301 was introduced into legislation this week by floor leader Jodi Lott-R (District 122).

This bill would allow parents to use state funds in a manner similar to “vouchers” in other states. Students are eligible if they were enrolled in a Georgia public school the year prior to enrolling in private school. This requirement would not apply to groups such as low-income families, the learning disabled or victims of bullying.

The funding would be similar to that of SB10 (Georgia Special Needs Scholarship), the state portion the local school district gets per student, which averages approximately 54 percent of the total when federal and local dollars are included.

Professional organizations such as the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE), oppose this bill claiming that it will “peel away the easiest students to educate” while dismissing the fact that so many students that will be using it are like those attending schools like ours because they were NOT being adequately served. Many of these students are currently receiving funds from SB10 and the Tax Credit Scholarship, which they also oppose. This bill would help families not eligible for SB10, and possibly offer additional support to those who do receive SB10 funds.

Let your legislators know you support this bill  (look up HERE)  and reach out to the bill authors:

Primary Author:  Cantrell, Wes 22nd

Co-Authors
Lott, Jodi 122nd, Governor’s Floor Leader
Fleming, Barry 121st
Stephens, Ron 164th
Gravley, Micah 67th
Harrell, Brett 106th

Source: “K-12 “scholarship” legislation would pay Ga. parents for private school“. Atlanta Journal & Constitution, (02/14/2019)