Over the protests of Democratic lawmakers, a comprehensive universal parental choice bill passed the Ways and Means Committee of the S.C. House of Representatives on Thursday – a major victory for South Carolina school children and their parents.
The legislation – which would give all parents a tax credit while providing scholarships for low-income students – now heads to the floor of the S.C. House.
“This is about schools, and frankly a government, that serves the best interest of the citizens who sustain it,” said Jeff Mattox, an activist and parent who drove from Elgin, S.C. to support the bill.
“Education is the biggest thing state and local government does, and the future of our state and nation literally depend on the education of our children,” Mattox added. “Choice and innovation are long overdue.”
Indeed they are long-overdue – and for once South Carolina’s “Republican” state lawmakers recognized this reality and acted accordingly. Last week, a quartet of “Republicans in Name Only” in the S.C. Senate shot down a similar proposal – choosing as they have on so many occasions in the past to put the financial interests of our state’s bloated bureaucracy over the best interests of our students.
(To read our exhaustive recap of this groundbreaking legislation, click here. To learn more about the bureaucratic forces seeking to block the bill, click here. To see for yourself the undisputed failure of our state’s current status quo’s current approach to public education, click here).
South Carolina has poured record amounts of funding into its public education system in recent years – a massive investment that has produced nothing but increasingly expensive failure.
In the coming fiscal year, South Carolina is set to spend a record $11,754 per child – a figure that doesn’t include bond money and other local government spending on buildings. Despite this record-setting investment, South Carolina’s graduation rate and SAT scores have continued to decline.
Republicans – even those who have been lukewarm towards choice proposals in the past – appear to have finally recognized that “enough is enough.”
Specifically, we’d like to praise S.C. Reps. Bill Herbkersman and Dwight Loftis – a pair of lawmakers we’ve criticized in the past – for their work on behalf of this legislation. Also, House Majority Leader Kenny Bingham and Rep. Chip Huggins deserve credit for rallying their colleagues in support of the legislation – while S.C. Rep. Gary Simrill gets props for his work in safeguarding the legislation from a Democratic effort to torpedo it with amendments.
In fact there’s plenty of praise to go around, as sources tell FITS that only two “Republican” lawmakers – B.R. Skelton (RINO-Pickens) and Rita Allison (R-Spartanburg) – voted against the measure.
Also, we would be remiss not to mention that outgoing Ways and Means Chairman Danny Cooper (RINO-Anderson) refrained from playing procedural games with the bill – even when Democrats mimicked fleeing, pro-union Wisconsin lawmakers by attempting to prevent a quorum from being attained.
Even incoming chairman Brian White supported the bill.
Good for all of them …
It’s amazing what happens when Republicans vote like Republicans, isn’t it?
Meanwhile, the conduct of these Democratic lawmakers is reprehensible – particularly when you consider that one of the major thrusts of this legislation is to provide new options for the estimated 109,000 South Carolina school children trapped in perpetually failing public schools.
Not surprisingly, a disproportionate percentage of these children live in districts represented by the lawmakers who refused to show up on Thursday.
A month ago, S.C. Sen. Robert Ford (D-Charleston) – one of the sponsors of the Senate version of this legislation – blasted his colleagues in the Legislative Black Caucus for similar theatrics.
“The Black Caucus loves to storm out of meetings,” Ford told FITS. “But what happens after you storm out of a meeting? Nothing. The Black Caucus don’t want to get nothing done, they just want to embarrass people.
“If you prove to people that you’re not just trying to make people look silly you can get stuff done,” Ford added.
Indeed. And while we’re all for obfuscating on bad legislation, universal parental choice is truly a reform that needs to “get done” if our state expects to improve its academic standing – and competitive position.
New parental choice laws have been passed this year in Oklahoma and Indiana. Also, choice programs in other states are being expanded. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, for example, is seeking permission in the state budget to quadruple the number of scholarships available to students. Meanwhile Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is looking to expand Milwaukee’s successful parental choice program by eliminating caps and eligibility requirements. In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett is leading an effort expand that state’s successful choice program by adding scholarships for low-income and middle-class students to the mix.