Tag Archives: Educational Effectiveness

Adam Schaeffer on School Choice

While embittered bureaucrats insist that giving parents real school choice is “experimental” and “dangerous,” other states are showing the tremendous benefits of school choice in improved academics, cost savings and increased equity in education.

Adam Schaeffer, of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, urged the SC Senate K-12 Education Subcommittee to look at the documented success of school choice in other states, and to adopt legislation that would help families in South Carolina.

More than anything, South Carolina lawmakers need to bear in mind that school choice is a reform measure that families in their districts want. Thousands of families have rallied at the state capitol in support of school choice on two occasions. Just last week hundreds more parents, students and educators came to make their need for choice known to state senators.

Lawmakers have no excuse to put off passing school choice in South Carolina. The data showing its benefits are clear, and more importantly, it is what many South Carolina families want.

73,000 students trapped in failing SC schools

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This school year 185 public schools across South Carolina were ranked as “failing.”

These types of under-performing schools were once called “F-schools” but they were later renamed “unsatisfactory.” Now, in the new politically correct edu-speak of Jim Rex, they are merely called “at-risk” by the State Department of Education.

No matter what you call them, these schools are primarily attended by low-income and minority children. In fact, 92% of the 73,722 students at failing schools come from low-income families and 77% are African-American.

Not only are these groups of students the most under-served in the public schools system, they are also the least likely to be able to make a real choice to attend a school other than their local public school. Their parents simply lack the money to move to a different attendance zone or enroll their children in private school. These kids are trapped (and the problem is not lack of government resources). Continue reading

Demand for Montessori shows need for School Choice

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Private Montessori schools build on decades of success as the one-size-fits-all public system struggles to catch up.

Montessori programs in public schools around the state rate high with parents. Now public school districts are looking for ways to accommodate all the students who want to participate.

Charleston parents are particularly eager to have their children enrolled in the Charleston School District’s Montessori Community School. Unfortunately, limited space has resulted in a short list of enrolled students, and a much longer list of disappointed students hoping for the chance to attend.

Through letter writing, and clamoring at school board meetings, engaged parents have been voicing their desire for expanded access to this type of educational program. According to Dr. Nancy McGinley, the Charleston school superintendent, “Wherever we have Montessori, we have a waiting list.”

Unfortunately, interest from parents has been able to generate only so much response from school districts. The high cost of purchasing Montessori materials, and training and certifying teachers in the method, can make it hard for schools to get Montessori programs parents want up and running.

There is obviously a huge desire among parents for Montessori education, and limited availability of the programs at local public schools.

This is where school choice comes in. Continue reading

Senator Kevin Bryant Calls Out School Choice Critics

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Excuses for denying parents real educational options are getting harder and harder to come by. The “old stand-by” lines of bureaucrats and political insiders invested in the status quo are simply not able to stand up to the fact that school choice really works. Other states ( with higher performing public schools) have instituted choice programs that have helped many thousands of families. Despite this, the managers of the nation’s most consistently underperforming public education system insist that they are more qualified than parents to decide how children should be educated.

Thankfully, some state lawmakers in South Carolina are refusing to be pushed around by baseless arguments from the education establishment. In the face of intense opposition, Democratic Senator Robert Ford has demanded school choice options for families. Likewise, Republican Senator Kevin Bryant ( Anderson, SC) has refused to back down from giving all children access to a quality education.

In a strongly-worded guest column in The State, Senator Bryant uses the experience of choice in other states to dismantle the arguments that school choice will not help “poor kids,” and that corporations and individuals will not step forward to contribute to Student Scholarship Organizations.

This from Senator Bryant’s column-

” This is real school choice, and detractors are attacking it by saying it “won’t help poor kids” because there is “no guarantee” private companies and individuals will support scholarships for low-income, mostly minority students.

There are no guarantees in Pennsylvania either, but since its inception, the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program has seen more than 3,200 companies pledge donations, and sent more than $350 million to some 600 scholarship-granting organizations. A key provision of the S.C. legislation is modeled after this successful program.

In the current school year, this investment in academic freedom has funded more than 50,000 scholarships to poor, at-risk students in Pennsylvania.

That’s 50,000 students getting a fresh start — and $300 million freed up within the public system to educate a smaller number of students.

In 2007, 62 corporations gave $14 million to student tuition organizations in Arizona, and 20,000 scholarships were made available for low-income students in Florida.”

Senator Bryant also calls out those who use personal attacks to oppose educational options for parents. Continue reading

Jim Rex: style over substance on government prekindergarten

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More taxpayers’ money and lowered expectations are Jim Rex’s miracle cure for all that ails children in South Carolina.

Last Wednesday the taxpayer-funded publicity presses in Columbia were churning out spin at full steam.

The Department of Education proudly announced that public preschool programs in South Carolina earned “high ratings” in a 50-state study conducted by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).

Speaking in his characteristically vague political platitudes, Superintendent Rex offering the following un-insightful commentary:

The new NIEER report shows us how far we’ve come in South Carolina, but it also demonstrates how far we still have to go,” said State Superintendent of Education Rex. “It is absolutely essential that we expand our early childhood offerings, especially to children from low-come families who are at-risk for success. It’s just the right thing to do. To do otherwise shortchanges our young people and jeopardizes the future of our state.”

Naturally, Rex made no mention of the “shortchanging” effects of a 55% on-time high school graduation rate, the sinking standardized test scores, and growing racial- and income- correlated achievement gaps that distinguish his monolithic K-12 public school system as the nation’s worst. Continue reading

Calls for School Choice in SC attract national attention

National Review’s “Media Malpractice” criticized the State Newspaper’s Roddie Burris for sloppy reporting on Senator Robert Ford’s support of School Choice:

…Unfortunately, Mr. Burris fails to offer any proof that private school families have been the biggest voucher backers. While it’s difficult to determine who the biggest supporters are, Mr. Burris might be surprised to learn that, so far, minorities have been the biggest beneficiaries of voucher programs that are currently operating in cities across the country. For example, according to the Department of Education, nearly 90 percent of children participating in the school voucher program in Washington, D.C. are African-American. Nine percent are Hispanic…

Talkshow host Neal Boortz condemned anti-school choice protesters in Charleston, and the lawmakers working to appease them:

…[giving parents choices] infuriates a lot of lawmakers ….. they can’t get a hold of your children quite as easily if they don’t submit to their government education! Besides .. these political hacks have teacher’s unions to please.

The “One News Now” political website interviewed Senator Robert Ford about support for School Choice and frustration with Democrats who are defending public school failure: Continue reading

SC NAACP opposition to school choice: “Bizzarely inconsistent”

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Senator Robert Ford’s unapologetic support for school choice has attracted a lot of attention. While many church leaders and parents have echoed Senator Ford’s demand for reform, some politicians and establishment insiders have responded with the usual unfounded rhetoric and fear mongering.

Nationally acclaimed school choice expert, Dr. Andrew Coulson, weighs in on the situation.

The South Carolina NAACP is among the most strident opponents of a new education tax credit proposal in that state that would make it easier for families — especially poor families — to choose private schools for their kids.

But the NAACP’s national platform states that:

The NAACP is a leading advocate of equal access to quality education.  In an effort to promote and ensure education opportunities for minority youth, the NAACP offers the following national scholarships: Earl G. Graves Scholarship, Agnes Jones Scholarship, …. These awards help eliminate financial difficulties that may hinder students’ education goals.

Doesn’t that put the SC NAACP’s position into clear conflict with its parent organization? Continue reading

Senator Ford Ready to Rumble

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According to this article from The State, Senator Robert Ford is mincing no words when it comes to his support for school choice options.  The Democrat from Charleston says he is no longer willing to stand by and watch the white/black academic achievement gap grow larger.

“All of us have been defending the system. It’s time to stop. I’m not pussyfooting with this anymore.”

This should come as a major relief to the tens of thousands of students in South Carolina who are trapped in persistently failing public schools. Continue reading

Even Talk About School Choice is Helpful

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When parents have access to a wide variety of educational options, public schools are forced to be more attentive to the needs of families.

If every parent is empowered to take their child out of a public school that does not provide adequate programs or instruction, then public schools are forced to innovate and improve.

Parents with real choices put the focus of education exactly where it should be: on the students, not the system.
This pressure to improve is being demonstrated in an unlikely place: Spartanburg District 7.

In fact, even the possibility of comprehensive school choice options being given to parents has prompted Spartanburg 7 to promote greater “choice” within the district.
In a variety of published articles and public commentaries, Thomas White- Spartanburg 7 superintendent and free golf enthusiast- has been outspoken in his criticism of comprehensive choice options for families in South Carolina. Continue reading

Sen. Ryberg on South Carolina public schools (VIDEO)

“158 students lost each school day in the last four years”

This is a great video of State Senator Greg Ryberg (R-Aiken) speaking passionately about a persistent lack of focus and effectiveness in South Carolina’s public schools.

A bill was written to allow a certain local district to subtract 3-days from it’s required 180-days of classroom instruction.

It was determined that this had to be addressed on a statewide basis, and there was an attempt at amending the measure to apply its 3-day “snow day” rule to all school districts in South Carolina. It is this expanded snow-day policy which Senators called “a gesture of extending good will” to the 85 local school districts.

Senator Ryberg addressed his colleagues about the triviality of giving students more time off when the state is facing a massive dropout rate, an embarrassing inability to prepare students for higher education and sinking SAT scores.

Thankfully there is some good news. Continue reading