Index Journal: Anything can be debated, including school choice

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An editorial column from the Greenwood based Index Journal (5/15):

Anything can be debated, including school choice

“School choice” has become a bone of contention among many South Carolinians. For public school advocates, it’s a scheme to destroy public schools. For those who support school choice for parents, it’s an opportunity for their children to go to what they might consider better schools. They cite competition as means to make all schools better.

Whether school choice supporters are right or wrong, those opposed to the concept see it as taking public money from public schools to give to parents to use to send their children to private schools. Supporters see tax-paid “vouchers” as a way to offer school choices that their children do not now have.

THIS IS NOT A NEW ISSUE, to be sure. Governor Mark Sanford has been, perhaps, the major advocate of school choice. He hasn’t received enough support to change anything although he has had some who agree with him. Powerful groups have opposed the governor all along the way.

Then State Senator Robert Ford, a black Democrat from Charleston entered the debate by supporting choice. The other day, at Ford’s request, 17 State Senators agreed to “more closely consider details of legislation offering School Choice to parents across South Carolina.”

They wanted an open floor debate in the Senate on the educational tax credit proposal. However, it was shot down.

The legislation is entitled the “Educational Opportunity Act” and would provide modest tax credit for families who homeschool their children or send them to independent schools. It also contains tax credits for individual and corporate donors who finance tuition scholarships for low-income children.

THE BILL ALSO WOULD SET up an increase in per-student funding in public schools as students transfer out.

Whether these provisions will ever satisfy those opposed is not known, of course. However, it’s legislation that deserved open debate. Everyone should be given a chance to be heard on the issue. Isn’t that the American way?

As one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence reportedly said during those dangerous times, there’s never been anything so terrible that it couldn’t be debated.

School choice is a serious matter for those on both sides. It should be debated next year, and it should be open. In a fair debate, right usually prevails. Why not on this issue?

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