Real K-12 educational options are one step closer to becoming law in South Carolina.
Legislation that will extend school choice options to middle- and low-income families through personal and corporate tax credits moved out of subcommittee today.
As the State Newspaper reports:
A bill that would give parents who send their children to private school or who homeschool their children tax breaks of up to $2,400 a year has passed a Senate education panel.
The bill will head to the full Senate Education Committee next, and if it passes there would go before the full Senate.
For more than five years, school-choice advocates have been fighting for the state to provide some assistance to private school parents. And some private schools say the assistance will help them, as parents in a down economy would be able to better afford tuition.
Dozens of parents with home-schooled and special-needs children packed the hearing room, along with independent school educators and other education activists.
At one point members of the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms security detail even came in to threaten the eager parents who voiced their praise and approval for Senator Davis (R-Beaufort). In response to comments made by Senator Matthews about the lack of capacity in private schools, Senator Davis noted that private schools, unlike the one-size-fits-all public school establishment, would eagerly respond to parents and expand their capacity as more options for families were made available.
Senator Larry Grooms (R-Berkeley) echoed Davis’ sentiment, and forcefully argued that parents had a fundamental right to make key decisions that impact their childrens’ lives. Senator Grooms scoffed at the notion that centralized planning by State bureaucrats could effectively replace the rights and responsibilities of parenting. He further observed that the tens of thousands of children already enrolled in private schools across the state were saving taxpayers millions of dollars in local and state spending each year. Senators Michael Fair (R-Greenville) and Harvey Peeler (R-Cherokee) also spoke passionately in favor the of the legislation, noting that School Choice already exists at the college level.
Though he does not sit on the K-12 education subcommittee, Senator Robert Ford (D-Charleston) also attended the meeting and testified to his fellow Senators about the overwhelming need- and demand- for substantive school choice. He pointed out the fact that while dozens of lawmakers and public school officials choose to send their own children to private school, over 70,000 less- privileged children were trapped in persistently failing schools.
Pointing to the results of a recent state-wide poll showing support among black families for school choice, Ford called out Senators sitting on the subcommittee saying ” These are people from across the state. These are your constituents!”
Subcommittee chairman Wes Hayes (R-York) voted to send the legislation to full committee with an “unfavorable” recommendation. Hayes’ move comes just days after a heavy outpouring of support for school choice by dozens of parents who testified in favor of the bill, many of whom had driven down to Columbia from Hayes’ York district.