Last weekend, Randy Page, president of South Carolinians for Responsible Government (SCRG) authored an opinion article in the State Newspaper dealing with the sustained failure of public schools in South Carolina.
Criticizing the political posturing of School Board Association President Paul Krohne, Page advocated for real reform in order to provide all students access to high quality schools:
Despite per-pupil spending that will top $11,480 in 2009, South Carolina is home to the nation’s lowest high school graduation rate and tied for last place in SAT scores. The Education Oversight Committee recently announced that wealth and race-correlated performance gaps are growing, and last week’s national reading scores showed South Carolina is stagnant while children in other Southern states continue to improve.
Krohne’s political posturing is offensive and deceptive. His status quo public schools are the foundation of S.C. social and economic troubles. They foster lowered expectations and deepen social divisions. Changing one phrase of the constitution is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. If Krohne had any real interest in educational performance and equality, he ought to be using his taxpayer-financed lobbyists to argue for school choice, not for more unaccountable spending.
Jim Rex and his high-rolling education bureaucrats seemed to have received the message. Late Thursday Rex announced a shocking and innovative new policy position: he too favors “high quality schools.”
This political u-turn is unprecedented. Based on the 47 percent graduation rate, 49th ranked SAT scores, growing race and poverty performance gaps, and declining reading scores, seasoned political observers long assumed Rex favored failing schools for all children.
But taking a page from Page’s SCRG play book, Rex now advocates for “high quality.” The only problem: Rex thinks that more political posturing (in this case changing the wording of the state constitution) is the solution. But, if $11,480 per student cant fix public schools, neither can constitutional semantics. Thats because the failing public school system is itself the source of these problems.
Jim must not have read Page’s full editorial. Only school choice, where all parents can choose among high quality schools, will provide children throughout South Carolina with access to the competitive education they deserve. Such choices already exist for the wealthy; now it is time to expand that access through a policy of school choice.