Tag Archives: Education Opportunity Act

The Opportunity of School Choice

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Time has come to focus on the student, not the System.

Giving every family in South Carolina access to a quality education for their children is essential to our state’s future.

It also shows that we, as a state, understand that parents have a right –even a responsibility– to make important decisions about their children’s lives.

Through school choice South Carolina can move away from the antiquated, exclusive model of “public or private schools,” and embrace a broader system in which public AND private schools are made available to meet the learning needs of individual students. School Choice means real options for all parents: public and private and charter and magnet and virtual and home school. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Index Journal: Anything can be debated, including school choice

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An editorial column from the Greenwood based Index Journal (5/15):

Anything can be debated, including school choice

“School choice” has become a bone of contention among many South Carolinians. For public school advocates, it’s a scheme to destroy public schools. For those who support school choice for parents, it’s an opportunity for their children to go to what they might consider better schools. They cite competition as means to make all schools better.

Whether school choice supporters are right or wrong, those opposed to the concept see it as taking public money from public schools to give to parents to use to send their children to private schools. Supporters see tax-paid “vouchers” as a way to offer school choices that their children do not now have.

THIS IS NOT A NEW ISSUE, to be sure. Governor Mark Sanford has been, perhaps, the major advocate of school choice. He hasn’t received enough support to change anything although he has had some who agree with him. Powerful groups have opposed the governor all along the way. Continue reading

Sun News: Education decisions disappoint

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Columnist Issac Bailey of the Sun News editorializes on School Choice in South Carolina and Washington DC (5/16).

Education decisions disappoint

I haven’t decided whether I’m more disappointed in Gov. Mark Sanford or President Obama.

First Sanford.

In the latest school choice debate, the governor seemed all but silent. He felt it more important to hammer home his principles about limited government and tax cuts in the fight over a stimulus package he could not stop. The $700 million he has some control over may be wrestled away by the General Assembly, which passed a budget that included the stimulus money. That means a court fight is likely, one Sanford stands a good chance of losing.

Without that money, the state expects an additional 500 teachers to lose their jobs on top of 1,000 others that probably can’t be saved.

Sanford tried to use his leverage to force needed reform in state government, but he forgot one of the most important reforms, that of our educational system.

His “Put Parents First” bill of a few years ago wasn’t perfect, but it pushed the school choice debate onto the front page in a state slow to change. It would not have gotten that far without Sanford’s visible support. I like vouchers more than the tax credits he initially pushed. Still, because of his advocacy for choice, reform within the public school system happened more rapidly.

The charter school system is more robust, and the “public school choice” bill Superintendent of Education Jim Rex seems to be successfully ushering through the Statehouse probably would not have occurred at all had there not been a real school choice movement. Continue reading

P&C: Keep pushing school choice

South Carolina School Choice Post and Courier
School Choice will enhance educational opportunities for our state’s children.

An editorial published in the Charleston Post and Courier (5/18):

Keep pushing school choice

Last week, the S.C. Senate Education Committee effectively killed legislation that could have given some poor children stuck in long-struggling public schools a private-school alternative. The bill’s opponents may have again prevailed in the political arena, but they have only slowed the momentum for school choice in South Carolina.

Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, had long opposed including private schools in educational-choice programs. But citing the needs of low-income children in low-performing schools, he introduced that bill to deliver expanded choice through tax credits, for parents paying tuition and businesses providing scholarships.

Foes of his bill argue that private schools lack accountability because they aren’t bound by regulations governing public schools. They overlook the ultimate accountability that parents exert on private schools.

The bill’s foes also point out that many communities in our state lack private schools, which means that not every child now in a poorly performing public school would have the chance to transfer to a private school. By that flawed logic, we should deprive all children of that option as long as practical obstacles block any child from it.

As for funding objections, keep in mind that Sen. Ford’s bill provided tax credits, not direct state money. Keep in mind, too, that the proposal was designed to maximize assistance to low-income and disabled children, in part through tax credits for businesses that supply scholarships to families who otherwise couldn’t afford private-school tuition.

Tax credits and scholarships for private-school tuition wouldn’t solve all of our educational problems. They would, however, enhance educational opportunities for our state’s children. Increased choice within public schools would be welcome, too. But a bill to do that, backed by state Education Superintendent Jim Rex, apparently is stalled in the General Assembly, too.

Despite Sen. Ford’s inability to get his tax-credit bill passed this year, he deserves credit for bravely going against his party’s tide. He also deserves credit for his resolve to try it again next year. As Sen. Ford told an audience at a local church recently, “Eventually, we’re going to do it, and it’s going to help some kids.”

And if we can help more children get a better education, we’ll help our state to forge a better future.

T&D: Rethinking school choice debate

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From Sunday’s (5/10) Orangeburg Times and Democrat:

Rethinking School Choice,” authored by Randy Page.

Those with the least have the most to gain from expanded educational choices.

That is why Times and Democrat editors ought to join the growing chorus of voices calling for comprehensive school choice in South Carolina.

In a recent editorial (Leaders’ dilemma … 4/24) Times and Democrat editors correctly noted that support for educational tax credits is growing among both parents and lawmakers. They observed that the South Carolina Education Opportunity Act (S. 520) was crafted to increase public school spending as children transferred out and offers students the type of access to quality public and private K-12 classrooms already provided by state scholarships for technical colleges and four-year universities.

The editors further noted that the South Carolina legislation, modeled after the best aspects of choice programs in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Florida, enjoys unprecedented levels of support among urban and minority parents. Continue reading

Simpkins: Tax credits, scholarships groups work

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Last week, zealously anti-parental choice editors at the State Newspaper mis-characterized the comments of Shonda Simpkins in process of condemning School Choice.

Upset by the use of her name, and frustrated with editors who seem to not understand the basic mechanism of the legislation, Simpkins penned a reply:

An Editorial Column in the State Newspaper (5/11)

By SHONDA L. SIMPKINS

Warren Bolton’s speculation about how educational tax credits might impact low-income students in South Carolina (“Tax credit plan ignores poor families’ economic realities,” May 3) ignores the basic reality that such programs have empowered tens of thousands of low-income parents in other states. For the first time, parents have made real educational choices for their children. This type of parental engagement, and the profoundly raised expectations it invites, has benefited all children in those communities.

Mr. Bolton envisions a family with two children earning less than $28,000 in a year. This is exactly the type of family that sends their children to the ShadeTree Academy for Girls, a small single-gender independent school I established in Edgefield. He worries that such parents lack the cash-on-hand to pay for $4,800 in tuition in the fall, while waiting for a tax credit to arrive months later. He also points out that low-income families rarely have the state tax liability to benefit from such a credit. Then he summarily dismisses student scholarship organizations — the part of the bill actually geared toward helping such families — as “fantasy.” Continue reading

Superintendent Jim Rex supports Student Scholarships

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Scholarships and choices are great (except for our K-12 schools)!

Politicians and bureaucrats at South Carolina’s State Department of Education seem to want it both ways.

Their taxpayer-funded publicists promote the importance of state scholarships for students attending colleges, universities, and vocational schools in South Carolina. They recently issued a press release (see photo) calling for greater awareness and utilization of the H.O.P.E., L.I.F.E and Palmetto Fellows Scholarships, which support students attending both public and private schools.

Similarly, State Superintendent Jim Rex has personally fundraised for non-profit scholarship granting organizations that serve low-income students making higher educational choices.

But, on the other hand, Jim Rex and his public school monopolist friends are adamantly opposed to providing similarly scholarship opportunities for students in grades K through 12 (even when the scholarships are privately funded) Continue reading

Ford presses Committee to approve and recommend School Choice

State Senator Robert Ford (D-Charleston), lead sponsor of Senate Bill 520, has asked a group of seventeen Senators on the Education Committee to more closely consider details of legislation offering School Choice to parents across South Carolina.

Supporters are seeking an open floor debate on the educational tax credit proposal in the full South Carolina Senate.

The legislation, Senate Bill 520, is entitled the “Educational Opportunity Act” and provides modest tax credit for families who homeschool their children, send their children to independent schools, or transfer public schools. It also contains tax credits for individual and corporate donors who finance tuition scholarships for low-income children. The bill is specifically designed to increase per-student funding in public schools as students transfer out.

Parents, community leaders, and independent school leaders have been pushing to have the legislation sent to the Senate floor for a straightforward up-or-down roll call vote. Hundreds of parents packed into three separate over-flow rooms earlier this year when as they came to support the legislation during the K-12 Subcommittee public hearing phase. Thousands more have attended statehouse rallies on the steps of the capital building in recent years. Continue reading

NAACP’s Rev. Darby debates School Choice with National Expert

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Earlier this year, Senator Robert Ford (D-Charleston) announced his support for School Choice in South Carolina.

Ford made his position crystal clear: South Carolina public schools have persistently failed to properly educate low-income and minority children. A far reaching reform is required, and School Choice offers a way to engage parents and match children with classrooms suited to their needs. As Ford explained: “All of us have been defending the system. It’s time to stop. I’m not pussyfooting with this anymore.”

One of Ford’s most outspoken critics is Reverend Joseph Darby, senior pastor of the AME Morris Brown Church in Charleston, and First Vice President of the Charleston Branch of the NAACP.

Now, national expert on School Choice Andrew Coulson is engaging Rev. Draby in an online debate over the merits of School Choice. The first round of point and counter-point essays are posted on the CATO At Liberty blog.

For those who think the CATO blog is TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read) here is a paragraph-by-paragraph overview of the opening arguments: Continue reading