Worried that South Carolina’s decrepit public schools might lose their coveted last-in-the-nation status to long time rival Mississippi, lobbyists and political consultants are working on overdrive to defend the failures and convince weary taxpayers to “stay the course.
“I’ll be honest with you,” explained an unnamed consultant, “we are running scared.”
Experts point to South Carolina’s 47 percent high school gradation rate and 49th placed SAT scores as indication that its title as “nation’s worst” is well deserved. But growing support for K-12 scholarships and tax credits threatens to unseat the status quo. Across the state, candidates committed to more options for parents are aggressively challenging incumbent lawmakers.
“South Carolinians are proud of their exceptionality, and our government schools are no different,” the anonymous lobbyist observed. “Taking a cue from our pollsters, we have been working to dress up our decades old message of big government waste and patronage in the hip new clothes of ‘change, reform and transparency.’”
In a last ditch effort to maintain control over education money and power in South Carolina, bureaucrats and seated politicians have sought out the most mercenary elements of Columbia’s political underworld. Lobbyists and consultants working for Ross Shealy and Warren Tompkins have teamed up for this full-scale attack. They are working hard to stamp out dissent among outraged voters, using the language of truth and transparency to disguise their message of waste, failure, and political power.
“At more that $11,000 spent per kid, we are talking $8 billion in annual appropriations – we’d be crazy not to fight hard for a big piece of that pie,” explained the well-paid consultant, outlining his extravagant plan to circle the wagons around failing schools and government waste. “It’s a simple scam, but we are betting the people will swallow it hook, line and sinker.”
But voters and seasoned observers remain skeptical. The well-documented track record of the Shealy-Tompkins political machine makes it clear: a new logo for the same politics of government waste and educational failure will fool no one.