A bill that would help low income and disabled students attend independent schools passed a S.C. Senate subcommittee that was specifically created to examine the legislation. In fact the choice bill was actually advanced by S.C. Sen. Wes Hayes (RINO-York), a longtime opponent of expanded parental options.
Props to Hayes for his willingness to give this legislation – which overwhelmingly passed the S.C. House of Representatives earlier this year – a chance to be heard at the next level. And props to another longtime RINO (S.C. Sen. David Thomas) for his support.
Good for both of them …
Frankly, given the modest price tag associated with this program (it would cost roughly one-tenth of the nearly $300 million in new state revenue certified by the S.C. Board of Economic Advisors earlier this week) it’s hard to believe that anyone would want to stand in its way.
Nonetheless the legislation – which would provide an important first step toward market-based accountability in this state – has been the target of an intense taxpayer-funded lobbying effort by the state’s education establishment, which has been effectively killing off any challenge to its monopoly for the past eight years.
The legislation has also been targeted for defeat by left-leaning editorial boards.
At this week’s hearing, taxpayer-funded lobbyists from the educrat establishment were tripped up when S.C. Sen. Larry Grooms (R-Berkeley asked them why they didn’t oppose tax credits for solar energy, electric cars or any of the dozens of other credits that exist in this state.
Apparently the only tax credits they have a problem with are those that would give the state’s most vulnerable students a chance – and the state’s most poorly performing schools some long overdue competition.
Despite the victory, the tone of the hearing was very insular. For example, despite the fact that dozens of states have long standing programs with tens of thousands of participants and mountains of research has examined the outcomes, S.C. Senators Phil Leventis and John Matthews engaged in smug, theoretical speculation .
In Florida, 77 percent of the nearly 40,000 low-income students receiving tax credit funded scholarships are minority children, but Matthews still lamented that a South Carolina program “might” not help students of color.
And while Hispanic students in Florida now have average NAEP reading scores that rank above the average of all South Carolina students, Leventis worried that choice “might” not help those kids here who need it most.
Again … come on.
Also of interest? The fact that Jay Ragley – an aide to S.C. Superintendent of Education Mick Zais – came to the hearing to convey Zais’ full support for the program. Ragley indicated that Zais’ support was consistent with his ongoing focus on the academic”consumer” (namely parents and their students) rather than any one certain element of the process(s) or systems that attempts to serve them.
Focusing on academic, not institutional needs in other words …
Given that S.C. Senate President John Courson is unilaterally opposed to any parental choice plan, Hayes’ vote at the full committee level becomes increasingly critical. Hopefully he will once again decide that this legislation deserves an up or down vote.