For years, South Carolina’s big-spending public school bureaucrats (a.k.a. “educrats”) were on the offensive in their battle to preserve our state’s failed monopolistic status quo.
The funding and academic numbers weren’t on their side (far from it, in fact), but these well-heeled purveyors of failure were nonetheless able to continue living large – drawing their six-figure salaries, enjoying their taxpayer-funded vacations and squirreling away hundreds of millions of dollars in reserve accounts while our children’s test scores and graduation rates continued to fall.
It was all “for the children,” we were told – and anyone who dared to challenge these government-funded goons (or their increasingly-costly stranglehold on generational ineptitude) was promptly demonized as wanting to “destroy public education.”
Well, times are changing …
At a House of Representatives subcommittee hearing earlier this week, S.C. lawmakers heard from lobbyists and public school employees fighting to kill the “Educational Opportunity Act” – legislation which offers new choices to parents and children through tax credits and scholarships for low-income students.
Ordinarily, educrats have been been able to walk into these hearings assured of the outcome – and the fact that they would face only “softball” questions.”
This week … not so much.
The hearing began in predictable fashion, with a former public school teacher standing before the committee and reading a statement decrying the evils of “vouchers” – a statement based on talking points generated by the South Carolina Education Association and Association of School Administrators (i.e. these guys).
Once her recitation was finished, subcommittee chairman Bill Herbkersman thanked her for her testimony but pointedly asked her if she had “done her homework” regarding the bill. It quickly emerged that the former teacher had not only failed to read the bill – but had no idea of the difference between a “voucher” and a “tax credit” Accordingly, she was unable to point to any part of the legislation that could even remotely be described as a “voucher.”
Next up, a teacher from Spring Valley High School in Northeast Columbia, S.C. stood and recited the same prepackaged platitudes, adding that forty of his fellow teachers had recently “lost their jobs due to devastating cuts.”
Of course that wasn’t quite true, either.
Through a series of surprisingly-pointed questions from Rep. Brian White (of all people), the committee soon learned that many these “fired” teachers were actually double-dipping participants in the taxpayer-funded Teacher and Employee Retention Incentive (TERI) program, or triple-dipping post-TERI contractors. Not only that, one of them was actually back at the school working as a substitute teacher while others were set to leave anyway and had been “lost” due to “natural attrition.”
This same teacher was then asked by Rep. Mike Pitts about the merits of the GI Bill, a hugely-popular and highly-successful school choice program that sent former servicemen to public and private schools with government scholarships after World War II. The teacher had not heard of the bill, but after getting a brief lesson agreed it sounded like a “great idea” and something he would “definitely support.”
He also noted that “there weren’t really any big differences” between scholarships for K-12 and higher education when Rep. Joe Neal tried to throw him a bone and spin his comments to be anti-school choice.
The command performance of the hearing, though, came courtesy of Scott Price – the chief legal counsel for the S.C. School Boards Association (SCSBA). Price, of course, is the longtime, high-dollar taxpayer-funded lobbyist who is tasked with dragging these unwitting teachers before the legislature to carry his political water for him. After a ten minute speech extolling the infallible motives of the public school system and the horrors that have befallen it due to recent “cuts,” he was flatly rebuked by Herbkersman.
Herbkersman told Price that if he was serious about “austerity” and getting the most out of “scarce resources,” then perhaps the panel could discuss Price’s own taxpayer-funded salary.
Visibly shaken, Price said he did not want to do that.
Herbkersman went on to inquire as to the salaries of the teachers in the room ($47,000 is now the public school average in the region) and wondered aloud if Price’s contribution and commitment to attacking parental options was really worth “three to four times the cost” of a public school teachers to the taxpayers.
An excellent point … which none of the educrats was particularly eager to refute.
Obviously, those of you familiar with FITS know that the the names Bill Herbkersman, Mike Pitts and Brian White are rarely published in a positive light. We’ve got serious problems with their voting records on any number of issues, and we haven’t been at all shy about saying so.
However, in this instance we would like to commend these three lawmakers for doing an excellent job. By refusing to swallow the same-old nonsense that the educrat establishment has been churning out for years, these three lawmakers sent a message that misinformation will no longer be tolerated in the education debate here in South Carolina.
Who knows … perhaps if more lawmakers started insisting on the truth from these educrats, they might actually get something resembling it.
And while the truth obviously isn’t going to do the education establishment any favors, we suspect it will do wonders for the 109,000 children trapped in perpetually failing public schools in South Carolina.