P&C: Keep pushing school choice

South Carolina School Choice Post and Courier
School Choice will enhance educational opportunities for our state’s children.

An editorial published in the Charleston Post and Courier (5/18):

Keep pushing school choice

Last week, the S.C. Senate Education Committee effectively killed legislation that could have given some poor children stuck in long-struggling public schools a private-school alternative. The bill’s opponents may have again prevailed in the political arena, but they have only slowed the momentum for school choice in South Carolina.

Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, had long opposed including private schools in educational-choice programs. But citing the needs of low-income children in low-performing schools, he introduced that bill to deliver expanded choice through tax credits, for parents paying tuition and businesses providing scholarships.

Foes of his bill argue that private schools lack accountability because they aren’t bound by regulations governing public schools. They overlook the ultimate accountability that parents exert on private schools.

The bill’s foes also point out that many communities in our state lack private schools, which means that not every child now in a poorly performing public school would have the chance to transfer to a private school. By that flawed logic, we should deprive all children of that option as long as practical obstacles block any child from it.

As for funding objections, keep in mind that Sen. Ford’s bill provided tax credits, not direct state money. Keep in mind, too, that the proposal was designed to maximize assistance to low-income and disabled children, in part through tax credits for businesses that supply scholarships to families who otherwise couldn’t afford private-school tuition.

Tax credits and scholarships for private-school tuition wouldn’t solve all of our educational problems. They would, however, enhance educational opportunities for our state’s children. Increased choice within public schools would be welcome, too. But a bill to do that, backed by state Education Superintendent Jim Rex, apparently is stalled in the General Assembly, too.

Despite Sen. Ford’s inability to get his tax-credit bill passed this year, he deserves credit for bravely going against his party’s tide. He also deserves credit for his resolve to try it again next year. As Sen. Ford told an audience at a local church recently, “Eventually, we’re going to do it, and it’s going to help some kids.”

And if we can help more children get a better education, we’ll help our state to forge a better future.


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