According to this article from The State, Senator Robert Ford is mincing no words when it comes to his support for school choice options. The Democrat from Charleston says he is no longer willing to stand by and watch the white/black academic achievement gap grow larger.
“All of us have been defending the system. It’s time to stop. I’m not pussyfooting with this anymore.”
This should come as a major relief to the tens of thousands of students in South Carolina who are trapped in persistently failing public schools.
After decades of this treatment, minority and low-income families are in desperate need of real educational options. According to a recent SC Education Oversight Committee report, African American students in South Carolina public schools are getting the worst of an already underperforming system.
The report shows-
• The white/black disparity in performance on math PACT tests rose from 24.4% in 2000 to 29.9% in 2008
• …In science it rose from 24.3% to 32.4%.
• …In social studies it rose from 21.6 to 25.6%
• The white/black gap in SAT scores rose from 195 points in 2002 to 198 points in 2008
• The white/black gap in ACT scores rose from 4.2 points in 2002 to 5.3 points in 2008
Despite these horrifying numbers, some lawmakers are totally comfortable shrugging off the implications of such widespread inequity.
One such legislator, Senator John Scott of Richland County, made the statement, “We already have school choice. Public school is free to all. If you want to go to a private school, you pay.” A lowcountry lawmaker, Senator Clementa Pinckney, went so far as to claim, “Any dollar diverted from public education represents a child deflected from his future.”
Perhaps Senators Scott and Pinckney should consider what future is really available to the students in failing schools. Judging from the South Carolina’s bottom-line test scores, 55% on time graduation rate and widening achievement gap, the question should be asked, “Why would these senators NOT want to divert a child from this future?”
It should be incredible that any elected official could claim to represent the best needs of families, and still dogmatically state that failing public schools are all the future a child needs or deserves. Unfortunately, this same “system over students” mindset has gone unchallenged for too long in the General Assembly. Senator Ford should be applauded for breaking free of it, and doing what it takes to give students a real chance for a successful future. Hopefully his bare-knuckle approach to reform will cause Ford’s fellow lawmakers to do the same.