podcastED: Florida mom wants education savings accounts to become reality

Three of Alkesha Williamson’s five children attend private schools thanks to Florida education choice scholarships: Kenysis, 7; Kharmma, 12; and Krysis, 13.

On this episode, senior writer Lisa Buie talks with Alkesha Williamson, a mother of five children, including three who receive state education choice scholarships.

Williamson’s daughter is on the autism spectrum and receives the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities, which uses an education savings account model that empowers parents to customize their children’s education through spending flexibility. Her two sons receive the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Education Options, which uses a traditional scholarship model.

Williamson, a single parent from Tallahassee who works three jobs, recently spoke before the House Choice and Innovation subcommittee in support of HB 1, a bill that would expand scholarship eligibility to all Florida students and convert all traditional scholarships to education savings accounts.

She has lived in three states, none of whose district schools worked well for her children. After letting them learn at home during the pandemic, they attend a private Christian school, thanks to state education choice scholarships. Williamson said she would welcome the chance that HB 1 and SB 202 would give her to have education savings accounts for her sons as well as her daughter.

“I would love for that to happen, and I really hope it does go that way. For them to be converted over to the educational savings accounts would be awesome because then that would open up more resources for my boys as well. and maybe we can go back to doing our homeschool thing, getting private tutors and things like that. And that way we can kind of schedule our own education on our own time, which would work out for me because I’m a very busy person.”

Episode details:

  • How Williamson’s daughter’s condition made district schools a poor fit and made it difficult for Williamson to keep a job
  • Williamson’s experience with other forms of schooling during the pandemic
  • How Williamson learned about the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities and how the scholarship allowed Williamson to customize her daughter’s education while she was homeschooling her
  • How a change in eligibility rules helped Williamson, a single parent, get scholarships for her two sons
  • How the scholarship programs have made it possible for Williamson, who works multiple jobs to make ends meet, put her children in a private faith-based school that offers individual attention
  • The additional opportunities the flexibility of education savings accounts offered by HB 1 and SB 202 would provide for her children

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BY Lisa Buie

Lisa Buie is senior reporter for NextSteps. The daughter of a public school superintendent, she spent more than a dozen years as a reporter and bureau chief at the Tampa Bay Times before joining Shriners Hospitals for Children — Tampa, where she served for nearly five years as marketing and communications manager. She lives with her husband and their teenage son, who has benefited from education choice.