Readers Favor School Choice by 65.8%

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From The Charleston Regional Business Journal

By Andy Owens
aowens@scbiznews.com
Published March 27, 2009

Readers who responded to a two-day e-mail poll overwhelmingly said they were in favor of school choice in South Carolina.

Sensing a swell of opinion related to state Sen. Robert Ford’s comments and press conference Tuesday in favor of school choice, SC Biz News asked readers in Charleston, Columbia and statewide their opinions on the issue.

Readers were asked to choose vouchers, tax credits or no school choice, and were then given a chance to comment.

Here’s how the 173 readers answered the question
“Are you in favor of school choice in South Carolina?”

Question Answer Percentage of total
1) Yes, by using vouchers 56 32.3%
2) Yes, by using tax credits 58 33.5%
3) No 59 34.1%
All yes (total of 1 and 2) 114 65.8%

Nearly the same number of readers preferred vouchers to tax credits, but when vouchers and tax credits are combined in an “all yes” choice, more than 65% were in favor of school choice. About one-third of readers said they didn’t want school choice in South Carolina, and their comments showed their reasoning.

“This is just a taxpayer subsidy to high-income people that already send their kids to private school,” said one statewide reader. “Our money needs to go to making public schools excellent.”

Another reader who spoke against school choice said it was an issue of socioeconomic class and was unfair to underserved populations.

Related story and more reader comments
Democrat senator calls for school choice in South Carolina

“Public schools are the cornerstone of our democracy. School ‘choice’ is an affordable option only for an affluent class, and ultimately undermines educational opportunity for an underserved population.”

Another reader equated school choice to segregation and brought up a topic that not many lawmakers have discussed: If private schools accept public money, will they be required to follow state regulations?

“Not until these private schools have to have certified teachers, students have to pass all the tests that public school students take and report cards are issued on the school’s performance. Otherwise we have two education systems not unlike we had during the segregation era.”

Nearly all the readers who were in favor of school choice seemed to think it would help public schools improve.

“Qualifying my answer, I believe in school choice for students in public school assigned to underperforming public schools to choose another higher-performing public school,” said one reader.

“I do favor choice within a district,” said another reader. “The local district in Beaufort will be over run by Jasper students, and we will get nothing in return based on the current formula. If every child had a dollar amount attached, then it would work. But not under the current system.”

Another reader hoping for vouchers emphasized giving students and families a “choice.”

“Choice is the operative word. America is supposed to be about freedom to choose. Vouchers are the best choice, but tax credits would be a move in the right direction.”

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