One of the two over-flow rooms packed with supporters of School Choice during the K-12 Education Subcommittee public hearing on S.520.
Today over 200 parents, educators, children and activists packed the halls of the state senate offices. Their mission was to urge state senators sitting on the K-12 Education Subcommittee to vote for real school choice options in South Carolina.
Despite the fact that halls in the Gressette Building are regularly crowded with paid lobbyists, security personnel refused to allow parents to stand in the hall outside where the hearing was taking place. Even though many of these individuals had traveled long distances to be seen by their elected officials, scores of parents, children and educators were made to move to other empty hearing rooms, some of which were on a different floor from where the hearing was taking place.
Even these attempts to diminish the impact of the voters and taxpayers supporting school choice could not lessen the appeal of the parents’ testimonies.
Among the activists and educators who came to speak were members of the South Carolina Independent School Association, the South Carolina Independent Schools Serving Minority Children, the South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools, the South Carolina Association of Christian Schools, the Diocese of Charleston, and dozens of parents of public, private, home school and special needs children.
Speakers begged the Senators to give them the ability to help their children, and to save public schools money in the process. Independent school administrators stated their eagerness to help children in their communities, and the room in their schools to facilitate new students.
In contrast to the parents who testified -and the hundreds more crowding the halls and hearing rooms- a small group of well dressed, well-paid, taxpayer-subsidized lobbyists and bureaucrats showed up to protest any school choice reforms.
The face of the anti-choice establishment, Jim Rex, once again tried to hawk his previously rejected, public school transfer program. Several other heads of groups totally invested in the status quo jumped to echo Rex’s message of “more money, more control.”
Parents need help, and they need choices. No rhetoric can change the fact that over 200 people showed up to ask for that today, just as thousands did in a 2007 rally at the state capitol.
Now the question remains: will lawmakers hear the voices of real people coming to ask their democratically elected leaders to do what is best for their children, or will the lobbyists and bureaucrats continue to hold total control over the future of hundreds of thousands of students in South Carolina?