“This boat may not be ideal right now, but she’ll be seaworthy once we put on this high quality patch!”
A recent editorial from The Spartanburg Herald Journal cautions lawmakers who would support an amendment to the state constitution mandating a “high quality” education. Creating a mandate for “high quality education” may sound like a worthy goal on the surface; but parents, lawmakers, and educators need to be aware of the widespread problems that would most likely be the result of such legislation.
According to the editorial-
“This language would result in a never-ending stream of lawsuits, wasting money that could otherwise be put into education. This bill is not really an education measure. It is a jobs-for-lawyers bill.
Every school district that doesn’t think it gets enough money from the state would sue, claiming it can’t provide a high-quality education.
Every parent whose child couldn’t study the language he or she wanted to study would sue, claiming that this child wasn’t getting an education allowing him “to reach his highest potential.”
Every family with a special needs child would demand specific educational opportunities tailored to that child’s specific needs regardless of the cost because, after all, it is his constitutional right to have an education that allows that child to reach not just an acceptable potential but his highest potential.”
The Herald Journal is right to call out this well-intentioned mistake before it has the chance to work any harm on schools and taxpayers.
Consider another voice warning against the anger of embracing such a potentially destructive shortcut to education reform.
In a July 2008 column from his “Watchdog for the Taxpayers” blog, state Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom challenges South Carolinians to consider how helpless a few new words in the constitution are to effect real change. “Our education leaders often remind us that South Carolina’s education standards are among the highest in the nation. Thus, one might wonder why the wording of a centuries-old document should matter. If our constitution has not prevented us from establishing some of the highest standards in the nation, it certainly would not prevent us from meeting those same standards.”
Thankfully, South Carolina lawmakers need not look to such a naive, and even disastrous, “remedy” to the state’s many education needs. Instead of rearranging words on a document that most South Carolina families will never see, legislators can provide real, tangible benefits to students through comprehensive school choice. Fifteen other states have school choice programs with parents lining up to participate, and the same thing could happen here in South Carolina.
South Carolina lawmakers must decide: Will they support education reform in rhetoric, or in reality?