Commentary: In Florida, flexible education paves the way for promising futures

Editor’s note: This opinion piece from Kamden Kuhn, who lives in Tampa with her family, appeared this morning on the Tampa Bay Times.

When we adopted our son Malachi from an orphanage in Ethiopia five years ago, we didn’t fully understand the depth of the challenges a child with special needs faced.

Florida’s Gardiner Scholarship and its flexible spending has helped us overcome some of those obstacles.

Born with spina bifida, Malachi had limited access to both health care and education in Ethiopia. His caregivers did the best they could with what little they had.

Kamden Kuhn

Blessed with plenty, my husband and I wanted to play a very small role in Ethiopia’s orphan crisis by helping just one child, Malachi, receive the education, the health care and the family that he deserved.

Along our journey, we’ve encountered a community of support — sweet friends, family, doctors, nurses, therapists and teachers who have invested their time and resources to help Malachi. The Gardiner Scholarship — an education savings account program for students with special needs — has been a significant piece of that support system.

The Gardiner Scholarship gives families control over a flexible spending account which can be used to pay for tuition, fees, tutoring, curriculum, assistive technology and more.

A bill in the Florida Legislature would extend those opportunities to more families by turning all the state’s education choice scholarships into flexible spending accounts similar to Gardiner. Imagine the possibilities of matching resources chosen by parents to the specific needs we see in our children.

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