MCD Partners

Memphis Daily News
Unlocking Doors to Education
March 10, 2014
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald

George Washington Carver is quoted as saying that “Education is the key to unlock the golden door to freedom.” In our community, there are many education doors; however, there is not a master key that opens all the doors.

That is a situation that an overwhelming number of children in Memphis face, children who live in poverty and underserved areas of our community. The key they have may not open the door to an educational environment that will address their needs. One size does not fit all when it comes to educating individuals to become productive citizens and strong moral decision makers.

What if the outcome of your education, your employment, your status in life was limited to the only door your key could open, and written on that key was your ZIP code? What would your options be?

It is not really a “what if” question, it is a reality for thousands of children whose parents have no options when it comes to deciding who would educate their children. Poverty does not mean that parents do not love their children; poverty means there are no choices for their children.

If you don’t think that the educational landscape has changed for the better in Memphis, then you haven’t been paying attention. There has been a concerted effort to strengthen the public education system with a consolidated system, additional municipal systems, the Achievement School District, and a variety of charter schools. There really is no one way, no one size fits all when it comes to education. Good things are happening.

And now, Tennessee is on the verge of yet another educational option for parents to choose a private education. The key that opens that door is the Opportunity Scholarship Program. It’s an opportunity for children without choices, and an opportunity for parents to be invested in their children’s education by taking ownership of that choice.

I was one of eight persons who served on the Governor’s Task Force for Opportunity Scholarships. Our job was to listen to the people and their opinions about opportunity scholarships, and then to present a proposal for this option based on what is in the best interest of the children from the information we gleaned.

I heard just about every pro and con from people all across the state. They all spoke with passion, and the conviction of their belief. The only opinion I heard that had no validity at all was that failing schools and undereducated citizens was a Memphis problem. What happens to one citizen of our state happens to all of us. Problems don’t happen in isolation in a community or a state that seeks to improve the quality of life for all citizens.

What I learned during this process is that there is always room for one more option, one more choice, when it comes to parents deciding what school is best for their children. Opportunity scholarships afford such a choice, especially for those without choices.

Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a national education consultant, at 574-2956 or visit

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