Spartanburg HJ Editors wrong on Schools

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The Spartanburg based Herald Journal has a poor editorial and reporting track record on School Choice.

While parents from their readership area have written to the SHJ arguing for Choice, and driven to Columbia to personally pressure lawmakers for Choice, the paper continues to mis-repesent the details of Choice legislation, and the strength of its support.

Interestingly, the SHJ writers do recognize the existence of deep systemic flaws in Spartanburg public school governance.

These include wasteful spending, arrogance on the part of Superintendents, shady political posturing by public educators, and manipulation of SAT test score results.

Still, the paper has not been willing to push for specific reforms that will improve the situation. Chief among this would be School Choice.

From the most recent unconsidered SHJ editorial (5/19):

Support among the taxpayers for public funding of private schools, never that strong, has diminished over the past five years. It has diminished because public school choice has grown tremendously. It has diminished because the state budget has shrunk greatly. It has diminished because people have come to understand the out-of-state manipulators who push it, and the inability of such plans to help the students who need help most.

The editors are simply wrong.

Support for choice is strong and growing in South Carolina.

Public school transfer has not, and cannot meet the demands of parents.

Public school spending has, and continues to soar, especially on the part of non-instructional bureaucracy.

Private school tuition in the state averages $4,000, not four times that amount and those who are calling the loudest for School Choice are right here in South Carolina.

The fact is, parents in Spartanburg have a right to be proud of their public schools… at least as they compare to other public schools in South Carolina. However, in a regional and national context, the schools are persistently uncompetitive. Even the reporters at the nearby Greenville News realize that “the best” public schools are often “the furthest behind” their national peers.

Herald Journal editors also got it wrong about the Student Scholarship Organizations (SSO) aspect of the bill. They complained:

“The part of this proposed law that enabled corporations and individuals to earn tax credits by funding scholarships for poor children didn’t explain what would happen in a year like the current one, when profits were so far down that that corporate giving and the need for tax credits all but disappeared. Also not explained was why these corporations and individuals aren’t already taking advantage of tax deductions for such donations.”

They should have considered the words of Shonda Simpkins, the head of a small private school primarily serving low-income and African American students:

“In fact, individual and corporate donations to non-profit scholarship-granting organizations are a great way for businesses and philanthropists to make targeted investments in K-12 education. And that is exactly what they have done in other states, by awarding tuition scholarships at the start of each semester. Last school year, more than 20,000 low-income students in Florida received scholarships to attend 937 different private schools through this type of program. In Pennsylvania, where the caps on donations and credits are higher, it was more than 44,000 students. Not only have donors eagerly given money to save low-income children from failing public schools, they have also saved taxpayers money in the process.

Government auditors in Florida have found that taxpayers saved $1.49 in state education funding for every dollar “loss” in corporate income tax revenue due to credits for scholarship contributions. In South Carolina, there will be thousands of dollars more in savings for the local school districts. Locally raised revenue — roughly $5,000 per child — will stay in the public district when children transfer out, leaving more money per public-school student”

Editors at the Herald Journal are doing a great public service by bringing attention to problems in the public schools that serve their community. Years of within-the-system reforms (from Education Accountability Act to high dollar Standardized Assessment) have actually led to increased inequality, more failing schools,and higher levels of reckless spending.

Parents (not to mention other newspapers) have concluded that School Choice will offer all students greater access to the type of quality and appropriate instruction they deserve. SHJ Editors ought to closely consider the success of such programs, and the reasons why parents in South Carolina want such access, before dismissing it.

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