Budget cuts are making education bureaucrats worry about money for the first time in years, and they don’t like it one bit.
As a government monopoly, the public school system isn’t fiscally efficient. There is no questioning that massive administrative growth at the SC Department of Education, South Carolina’s public education establishment, has burned through a billion new dollars in spending over the last five years with nothing to show for it.
Now marginal cuts have been made, and educrats are scrambling to find a way to maintain the “no questions asked” spending spree that they have become accustomed to.
This week Jim Rex will meet with members of the business community to discuss what role private groups can have in funding public education (in addition to the taxes they pay).
Some public school districts have struck upon the idea of using private foundations to help local schools.
Pam Bailey, Berkeley County School District spokeswoman, said of a foundation set up to help Berkeley County schools- “It is a 501-C3 organization, so it could be a conduit for grant money from businesses that it holds. It’s also a bank for private donors who want to set up scholarship funds.”
That sounds like a great idea, Pam! In fact, other states like Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Arizona and Florida make use of similar groups called Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGO) that allow concerned businesses to contribute money so students from low-income families can attend the school of their choice; public, charter or private.
In Pennsylvania alone, 33,000 students have made use of scholarships from SGOs to exercise school choice. Since the program’s inception in 2001, corporate contributions have more than doubled from $30 million to $75 million dollars for scholarships.
There are many families and businesses in South Carolina that would eagerly participate in a school choice scholarship program, but Rex has no interest in allowing foundations to work both ways. Either the money goes to Rex’s system, or it goes nowhere at all.
Jim Rex wants businesses to dig deep and give to a system that arguably turns out the least prepared workforce in the nation, but when it comes to these same companies helping low-income and minority students get out of failing schools he wants nothing to do with it.
Scholarship Granting Organizations work, and other states have used them with great success. South Carolina public schools have a 49% graduation rate, a widening achievement gap, and some of the lowest SAT and ACT scores in the nation, yet bureaucrats like Jim Rex continue to stand in the way of implementing proven means of boosting educational achievement. If Rex wants private foundations to give more money to education, he should have the honesty to extend this same option to groups wanting to provide parents with real school choice.