How education choice scholarship moved Florida student’s life from chaos to calm

David Facey, who attends a private school in Florida using a Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities, cheers for the Tampa Bay Lightning at a game in Tampa during the 2022-23 hockey season.

PINELLAS PARK – David Facey remembers sitting in his Language Arts class last year hoping for salvation. Hoping someone would pull the fire alarm. Drastic, yes, but anything to bring class to an end.

The other students were nearly finished with their writing assignment. David had written only three words.

His teacher noticed. She wasn’t happy.

“David, what’s wrong with you?” she asked. “You need to concentrate.”

David wanted to scream.

It’s not a lack of focus. It’s dysgraphia, a neurological disorder that affects his ability to write. David can’t write within the lines. He can’t properly space letters. It took him nearly the entire class to write those three words. His hand cramped. He had a headache. He could no longer remember what he was writing about.

The topic was the ocean. David can talk for hours about the ocean. He just can’t write about it. That led to a confrontation with the teacher, a trip to the principal’s office, and a phone call to David’s mom.

David’s biological mother used drugs throughout the pregnancy, said Betty Facey, who along with her husband, Arlen, adopted David when he was 3. David was born addicted to those drugs. As a result, he has dysgraphia and dyscalculia, another neurological disorders where he struggles with numbers and math. He has atypical cerebral palsy, which affects his core strength and fine motor skills. He struggles with anger management.

“His are more hidden disabilities,” Betty said.

David, 14, didn’t have a problem in school until the Faceys moved from Michigan to Pinellas Park in 2021. Betty learned the teachers at his assigned school were not following his individual education plan. He couldn’t understand assignments. He couldn’t complete them. He couldn’t keep up with his classmates.

And when confronted by his teachers, he couldn’t control his anger.

“I would act all crazy and stuff,” David said.

With the help of an education choice scholarship, Betty enrolled David at Learning Independence For Tomorrow (LiFT) Academy in Seminole. LiFT is a private K-12 school that serves neurodiverse students.

“I would say if Florida didn’t have this (education choice) option, he would be stuck in (his assigned school) school,” Betty said. “He’d have to put up with the stuff they were dishing out. … He would hate school. He would probably not have a chance to graduate.

“To me, to be able to get him in a place like LiFT, which really is the perfect place for him, is sort of like a miracle.”

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BY Roger Mooney

Roger Mooney is the marketing communications manager for Step Up For Students. He joined the organization after a career as a sports and features writer for several Florida newspapers, including the Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times.