Some kids are more equal than others: Smith supports “strong public schools, which we all fund and participate in,” except for his own kids, who attend private school.
Representative James Smith’s (D- Richland) recent diatribe about the infallibility of failing public schools is still causing waves.
In his State Newspaper OpEd, Smith repeated several unpolished, and less-than-factual Department of Education sound bites, trying to justify the absurdly low 45 cents per dollar of instructional spending in SC public schools. He also skimmed over the stagnant SAT and ACT scores, as well as expanding income and race-based performance gaps and a worsening 158-per day statewide dropout problem.
Smith further showed himself totally unaware of the sad reality of school under-performance, when he suggested the “best” schools in South Carolina were nationally competitive. In fact, recent SAT scores show South Carolina “best” districts to be more than 120 points behind scores in North Carolina’s top schools.
More troublesome for Smith than misinformation and bad data is the fact that Smith’s move places him far outside the political mainstream. Smith may not realize that both presidential candidates have endorsed some form of school choice as a way to expand access to quality student-appropriate instruction.
On the left, Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama supports school choice in the form of tuition tax credits for college. From his website:
“Create the American Opportunity Tax Credit: Obama will make college affordable for all Americans by creating a new American Opportunity Tax Credit. This universal and fully refundable credit will ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is completely free for most Americans, and will cover two-thirds the cost of tuition at the average public college or university and make community college tuition completely free for most students. Obama will also ensure that the tax credit is available to families at the time of enrollment by using prior year’s tax data to deliver the credit when tuition is due.”
On the right, John McCain, the Republican Nominee, also advocates for school choice, including K-12 education. From his convention acceptance speech:
“Education is the civil rights issue of this century. Equal access to public education has been gained. But what is the value of access to a failing school? We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice, remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers, and help bad teachers find another line of work.
When a public school fails to meet its obligations to students, parents deserve a choice in the education of their children. And I intend to give it to them. Some may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private one. Many will choose a charter school. But they will have that choice and their children will have that opportunity.”
If Obama sees choice as a way to expand access to college and McCain sees choice as a right for families, where does this leave James Smith’s stubborn defense of government dominated schooling?
It is hard to say. Smith defends the notion that the State itself has “children of its own.” From this seems to follow a belief that government always knows best.
But with his own children attending a prestigious private school in Columbia, it is hard to see why Smith does not want to extend access to other children who, in Barrack Obama’s words, were less wise in choosing their own parents.