Tag Archives: Florida

Senator Kevin Bryant Calls Out School Choice Critics


Excuses for denying parents real educational options are getting harder and harder to come by. The “old stand-by” lines of bureaucrats and political insiders invested in the status quo are simply not able to stand up to the fact that school choice really works. Other states ( with higher performing public schools) have instituted choice programs that have helped many thousands of families. Despite this, the managers of the nation’s most consistently underperforming public education system insist that they are more qualified than parents to decide how children should be educated.

Thankfully, some state lawmakers in South Carolina are refusing to be pushed around by baseless arguments from the education establishment. In the face of intense opposition, Democratic Senator Robert Ford has demanded school choice options for families. Likewise, Republican Senator Kevin Bryant ( Anderson, SC) has refused to back down from giving all children access to a quality education.

In a strongly-worded guest column in The State, Senator Bryant uses the experience of choice in other states to dismantle the arguments that school choice will not help “poor kids,” and that corporations and individuals will not step forward to contribute to Student Scholarship Organizations.

This from Senator Bryant’s column-

” This is real school choice, and detractors are attacking it by saying it “won’t help poor kids” because there is “no guarantee” private companies and individuals will support scholarships for low-income, mostly minority students.

There are no guarantees in Pennsylvania either, but since its inception, the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program has seen more than 3,200 companies pledge donations, and sent more than $350 million to some 600 scholarship-granting organizations. A key provision of the S.C. legislation is modeled after this successful program.

In the current school year, this investment in academic freedom has funded more than 50,000 scholarships to poor, at-risk students in Pennsylvania.

That’s 50,000 students getting a fresh start — and $300 million freed up within the public system to educate a smaller number of students.

In 2007, 62 corporations gave $14 million to student tuition organizations in Arizona, and 20,000 scholarships were made available for low-income students in Florida.”

Senator Bryant also calls out those who use personal attacks to oppose educational options for parents. Continue reading


South Carolina can learn from FL schools


Anyone with even a casual interest in public schools public education in South Carolina should read this article from the Washington Times.

Public schools in South Carolina continue to disappoint parents with consistently low SAT scores, a still widening achievement gap, and a massive dropout rate that ranks among the nation’s worst. All this bad news despite per-student spending over $11,000 per public school student.

The situation in Florida is very different. Continue reading

School Choice saving Florida taxpayers big bucks


According to an editorial in The Panama City News Herald, Florida’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Governmental Accountability (OPPAGA) found that the state’s school choice programs saved taxpayers almost $39 million last year.

The group’s study points out that Florida public schools saved over $6,100 for every one of the 21,493 students that participated in the school choice program; altogether saving the state $118 Million in school costs for the 2007-2008 school year.

Despite some criticism of the OPPAGA study’s results, research done by Florida TaxWatch, and the Collins Center for Public Policy at Florida State University, confirms that school choice is indeed saving taxpayers serious money.

Also cited is a 2007 Friedman Foundation study, which found-

“Instructional spending per student consistently increased in all public school districts and states that were subject to voucher programs. School choice has not prevented those states and districts from spending more on the students who remain in public schools.”

Fifteen states around the nation have implemented school choice programs and reaped similar rewards in saved money, and in improved student performance. Most important is that these school choice programs have provided parents the opportunity to decide whether a public, private, or religious school will best meet the needs of their child.

If school choice can improve the lives of families in Florida, it can do the same in South Carolina. As the economy struggles, and funds grow increasingly short, South Carolina lawmakers would do well to consider the financial and academic boon that school choice has been to Florida, and implement similar measures here.

Click here to read the editorial in the online edition of The Panama City News Herald

Click here to read the Friedman Foundation study about the success of school choice in Florida

Click here to read about how school choice programs are helping parents and students in fifteen other states.

Special Needs Scholarships: School Choice Par Excellence

Special education is very complicated. Time intensive and specialized instruction, facility modification, specially tailored curriculum and assessment, specialized transportation and a virtual minefield of state and nation regulation make special needs education an expensive and frustrating endeavor. Sadly, lawmakers in South Carolina don’t seem very interested in improving the situation.

But classroom instruction for uniquely challenged students is vitally important. It can help to foster individual autonomy, practical reasoning skills, a sense of self worth, and provides for meaningful socialization.

Recognizing these important benefits, federal lawmakers passed the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) which specifically guarantees a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for all disabled students. In practice, this means that parents work with public educators to develop and implement an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) tailored to the specific needs of each child.

Because traditional public school classrooms and curriculum are designed as a one-size-fits-all approach to instruction, children with unique needs often require extensive supplementary instruction. The need for student assistants, separate curriculum, and classroom modifications often lead public school officials to place special needs students in private schools. These children attend independent schools, focused on special needs instruction, but are classified as public school students because the state pays their tuition. Not only do the children enjoy better and more specialized instruction, school districts also save thousands of dollars by contracting services to those who are more uniquely qualified to provide them.

Though federal law requires disabled children receive a publicly financed education, and allows children to attend private schools to meet this goal, this is not a decision left to parents. This important decision is made by public school employees and education bureaucrats. Sometimes parents luck out and have the chance to place their children in effective and dedicated special needs private schools. More often they don’t. Like all government policies that depend on the whims of bureaucrats, identifying any type of logical pattern to these decisions is difficult.

However, five states have taken the highly acclaimed model of special needs private school placement, and extended the decision making process to include parents of the disabled children. Rather than having to accept the mandates of bureaucrats, parents can apply for support directly from the state in the form of scholarships or tax credits. Not only do the children receive access to uniquely appropriate instruction, the state and local district saves thousands of tax dollars because federal and local funding streams are rarely tied directly to the individual student.

Successful examples of statewide special needs scholarship programs include:

Florida: “McKay” Scholarships
Ohio: “Autism Scholarship” Program
Utah: “Carson Smith” Special Needs Scholarships
Arizona: “Pupils with Disabilities” Scholarship Program
Georgia: “Special Needs” Scholarships

These programs continue to receive glowing reviews. Research indicates that participating parents are more satisfied than parents of children who remain in traditional public schools. Additionally, parents report being offered higher quality services outside the public school system when using the scholarships. There are also measurable achievement gains among the participating students in private schools when compared with their peers in traditional public school setting.

As usual, certain politicians in South Carolina seem oblivious (or simply indifferent) to the success of these scholarships. In April, a committee of state lawmakers narrowly rejected sending a scholarship proposal for an up-or-down vote in General Assembly. Representatives Denny Woodall Neilson, Herb Kirsh Brian White would not allow the bill to receive the open floor discussion that such a education improving and money saving plan certainly deserves.

Contact your lawmaker. Let them know that denying choices to parents of special needs children is unjust. It wastes tax dollars and stifles opportunity for some our state’s most underprivileged students. South Carolina can, and should, do better.