City Paper: Reigniting SC’s School Choice Debate

charleston-city-paper

The Charleston based City Paper published a lengthy and well-researched article on School Choice this week.

Author (and paper editor) Greg Hambrick explains how many African-Americans have reached the tipping point in their frustration over persistently failing public schools. He explains how Senator Robert Ford and other sponsors of the Education Opportunity Act have drawn fire for their willingness to take the issue head-on.

Hambrick also looks at how school choice will save public schools in Charleston money:

The argument from tax credit advocates is that there will be fewer students using district resources — and that would be a good thing. Here’s how their math works: A parent zoned for Burke High School sends their child to a private school, receiving a $2,700 tax credit. The average cost per Burke student from local, state, and federal sources is nearly $12,100. The state, and likely the district, has lost $2,700, but should find savings from having one less student. Multiply and start watching the money roll in. Former S.C. Revenue Director Bernard Maybank released a study last week suggesting taxpayers could save $5.4 million in the first year.

The article further considers the impact of breaking the public school monopoly:

… The second argument in favor of tax credits is competition. Some people reason that public schools haven’t made strides because the people in charge of educating students just aren’t scared enough. But if you could bring in a private school that can provide a better education, it would spur public school teachers and parents to make public school equally or more attractive.

That argument has a pretty good leg to stand on. District and state education officials have realized they need an alternative to private schools that doesn’t limit parents to the attendance zone they’re stuck with. In Charleston, new magnet programs are now being offered to students countywide. This kind of innovation has come after years of debate and quite likely found success, at least in part, as a result of the pressure from voucher and tax credit advocates.

The very discussion of school choice has affected change in public schools,” says Neil Mellen, communications director for tax credit advocates at South Carolinians for Responsible Government.

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