The righteous indignation of South Carolina Senator Robert Ford (D-Charleston) over the persistent failure of public schools in South Carolina is attracting a lot of attention.
Sen. Ford, a Democrat who represents a heavily minority and primarily low-income district, is a lead sponsor of the SC Educational Opportunity Act. The bill expands access to private and homeschool classrooms through personal and corporate tax credits. Late last week, shocked parents in Charleston learned that principals at failing schools in Ford’s district would be receiving generous personal bonuses, despite the fact that student performance continues to stagnate.
Standing up for students (and taking on the bureaucrats who claim exclusive title to do so) has caused Ford to draw some fire.
As the The State Newspaper explains:
…South Carolina’s stubborn achievement gap — with black students trailing their white counterparts in state achievement testing, college entrance exam scores and graduation rates — changed his mind, he says.
“All of us have been defending the system,” Ford said. “It’s time to stop. I’m not pussyfooting with this anymore.”
Ford contends no African-American parent with financial means sends his or her child to a failing school. Poor and middle-class children should have the same set of choices, Ford said.
The political insiders at FITS News further observed:
Amazingly, Robert Ford may be the greatest thing to happen to the parental choice movement because there is absolutely no way of knowing what’s going to come out of his mouth next.
In a political process that is painfully predictable and scripted, Sen. Ford is for real.
National education policy guru Adam Schaeffer of the CATO Institute added:
Ford might be a bit lonely at first in South Carolina, but he stands in good company across the nation.
Florida’s donation tax-credit program became law in 2001 with the vote of a single Democratic legislator. Last year, a third of statehouse Democrats, half the black caucus and the entire Hispanic caucus voted to expand that program.
New or expanded tax-credit initiatives were signed into law by Democratic governors in Arizona, Iowa and Pennsylvania in 2006. That same year a Democrat-controlled legislature in Rhode Island passed a donation tax credit and a Democratic governor and legislature in Iowa expanded the tax-credit dollar cap by 50 percent in 2007.
Last year six states moved a school choice bill through both chambers and five more passed a bill through one chamber. Georgia passed a universal donation tax credit program, and Louisiana passed both a voucher program and an education tax deduction.