Tag Archives: Robert Ford

School Reform News highlights Choice push in SC

School Reform News School Choice

South Carolina Considers School Choice Legislation

An article by Sarah McIntosh, published in the June 2009 edition of the School Reform News.

South Carolina could become the latest state to implement a tax credit scholarship program allowing low-income children to attend the private school of their parents’ choice, if a bill introduced during the spring session becomes law.

State Sen. Robert Ford (D–Charleston) is sponsoring a bill to provide more school choice in the state. Senate Bill 520, the South Carolina Education Opportunity Act, would establish credits on personal state income taxes for education expenses and donations to groups granting scholarships to low-income children.

More than 100 people came to testify at an April 23 Senate K-12 Education Subcommittee hearing. Though only 40 were permitted to speak, twice as many spoke in support of the program than against. At a second subcommittee hearing on April 29, legislators gave the bill an unfavorable grade but sent it to the full committee for a future vote. Continue reading


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.

More Black Lawmakers Supporting School Choice

According to this article in USA Today, school choice is a reform measure that more black lawmakers are willing to publicly support.

Despite heated opposition from unions and status quo politicians, these officials have been willing to do whatever it takes to help children in failing public schools have access to a quality education. Prominent examples of this very necessary leadership are Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and former Washington, D.C., mayor Anthony Williams.

Putting children first- in the face of political pressure- puts these leaders in stark contrast to President Obama, who presided over the demise of the school choice program in Washington, D.C. that allowed low-income students to escape public schools so bad that US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan referred to them as “a national disgrace.”

Here in South Carolina, State Senator Robert Ford has been a strident voice for school choice options. Despite personal attacks and dismissive treatment by establishment hangers-on, Ford has continued pointing out the hypocrisy of lawmakers refusing parents choice, and demanding that low-income students in South Carolina have the same opportunities as those available to the children of more influential citizens. Continue reading

School Choice moves to full committee in SC Senate

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. Continue reading

Haves and the have-nots in Charleston


Great letter to the editor in the Charleston Post and Courier:

I was pleased to see Robert Ford‘s push for Tuition Tax Credits; however, when I read the March 25 story, it seemed focused on how this could be construed as posturing for a gubernatorial run instead of focusing on the current inequities in the system, and what a major step toward removing these inequities this legislation would be.

Critics of the bill say this will lead to re-segregation. Right now Charleston County schools are pretty segregated. They are divided into the haves and the have-nots. If you have enough money, you can send your children to private school or live in the right neighborhood. The only people who currently don’t have school choice are the people who can’t afford these options.

The proposed legislation will open up doors to the people who need it the most. It is phased in so that of the current students, only those whose families are below 200 percent of the poverty level qualify. It will also allow companies and individuals to immediately provide needy students with scholarships. Continue reading

City Paper: Reigniting SC’s School Choice Debate


The Charleston based City Paper published a lengthy and well-researched article on School Choice this week.

Author (and paper editor) Greg Hambrick explains how many African-Americans have reached the tipping point in their frustration over persistently failing public schools. He explains how Senator Robert Ford and other sponsors of the Education Opportunity Act have drawn fire for their willingness to take the issue head-on.

Hambrick also looks at how school choice will save public schools in Charleston money:

The argument from tax credit advocates is that there will be fewer students using district resources — and that would be a good thing. Here’s how their math works: A parent zoned for Burke High School sends their child to a private school, receiving a $2,700 tax credit. The average cost per Burke student from local, state, and federal sources is nearly $12,100. The state, and likely the district, has lost $2,700, but should find savings from having one less student. Multiply and start watching the money roll in. Former S.C. Revenue Director Bernard Maybank released a study last week suggesting taxpayers could save $5.4 million in the first year.

Continue reading

Calls for School Choice in SC attract national attention

National Review’s “Media Malpractice” criticized the State Newspaper’s Roddie Burris for sloppy reporting on Senator Robert Ford’s support of School Choice:

…Unfortunately, Mr. Burris fails to offer any proof that private school families have been the biggest voucher backers. While it’s difficult to determine who the biggest supporters are, Mr. Burris might be surprised to learn that, so far, minorities have been the biggest beneficiaries of voucher programs that are currently operating in cities across the country. For example, according to the Department of Education, nearly 90 percent of children participating in the school voucher program in Washington, D.C. are African-American. Nine percent are Hispanic…

Talkshow host Neal Boortz condemned anti-school choice protesters in Charleston, and the lawmakers working to appease them:

…[giving parents choices] infuriates a lot of lawmakers ….. they can’t get a hold of your children quite as easily if they don’t submit to their government education! Besides .. these political hacks have teacher’s unions to please.

The “One News Now” political website interviewed Senator Robert Ford about support for School Choice and frustration with Democrats who are defending public school failure: Continue reading