State lawmakers on the House Education Committee have rejected HB 4391, the so-called “Public School Choice Program.” This oddly titled proposal would neither mandate nor fund transfer of students between public schools. Nor would it provide parents with real choice in the form of access to independent, private, and home school options.
South Carolina law already allows parents to request transfers within or out of their districts. Federal law also provides for the transfer of many students attending low-income and failing schools. The proposed plan would simply create more administrative resistance to this complicated process. It would not address the fact that such transferring students are required to pay the locally raised portion of school operating costs out of pocket.
Like the failed public transfer proposal Jim Rex petitioned for last session this new bill offers parents nothing that existing state and federal law do not already mandate. More importantly, the proposal would create a complex system of overlapping local authorities, all of which have the ability to prevent transfers in and out of their districts
The Greenville News explained:
Members complained the bill didn’t do enough.
“I guess I’m not seeing this does much,” Rep. Bill Whitmire of Walhalla, who chairs the House education subcommittee, told the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ted Pitts of Lexington.
This year’s bill, like last, was championed by state Education Superintendent Jim Rex, who opposes any private voucher system but wants to foster more choices within public schools.
Pitts said this year’s bill was changed to remove the mandatory cross-district transfer provision, the part of the bill he said most cost the legislation votes last year.
But making it voluntary also removed the “teeth” from the bill, according to Whitmire, who said most of what the bill offers can already be done by school districts.
Public school transfer mechanisms are not school choice. Real choice includes unfettered access to the full range of educational opportunities: magnet schools, charter schools, home schooling and private schools as well as public ones. Public transfer, and in particular limited transfer with heavy local discretion, is a costly distraction from meaningful education reform.