ABSENT SPECIFIC REFORMS, GOVERNOR WANTS TO “START A CONVERSATION”
Two years into her administration S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley has finally decided to address the state of South Carolina’s chronic academic underachievement – which continues to serve as a drag on job growth and income levels in the notoriously poor Palmetto State.
Unfortunately the governor didn’t offer up specific solutions to our state’s worsening academic performance, she merely said she wanted to “start a conversation” on the issue.
“As we all know, sometimes conservations lead to more,” Haley said.
Um … okay …
Haley’s remarks – tucked into the tail end of her speech – were profoundly disappointing. First, she failed to embrace universal parental choice as part of her legislative agenda – choosing to (once again) pay lip service to this long-overdue reform.
“I know there are some strong school choice bills that are making their way through the General Assembly, and as I’ve always said I support school choice,” Haley said. “It will be good for the parents and children of our state to be able to make their own family decisions, and it should have happened a long time ago But I have never been one who believes that choice is the only way to improve education. It is one way, a truly important way, but we have to do other things as well.”
Translation? Haley is (once again) refusing to expend any of her own political capital advancing the one reform capable of turning around our state’s abysmal academic record.
What is the governor focused on instead? Undefined funding reforms aimed at improving rural government-run schools. Specifically, Haley said state leaders “have to figure out a better way to bring up the schools in the poorer parts of our state, and history shows that we cannot count on their own depressed local tax bases and restrictive federal dollars to do it.”
“We need to spend our dollars smarter,” she said. “We need to be more accountable. And we need to better serve all the children in South Carolina.”
We do need to spend tax dollars smarter. We do need more accountability. And we do need to better serve all the children of South Carolina. But those comments are nothing but meaningless sound bites unless they are accompanied by specific policies.
And Haley offered up absolutely nothing on that front …
During her first two years in office, Haley has focused exclusively on doling out taxpayer-funded incentives to select corporations – effectively bribing them to bring jobs here at the expense of existing businesses. Legislatively, she’s been focused exclusively on pushing a watered down government restructuring proposals. In fact she hasn’t addressed education in a substantive manner since August of 2010 – when she rolled out a weak campaign platform that also lacked a firm commitment to parental choice.
What Haley fails to recognize is South Carolina’s long-term economic vitality is dependent on our state’s future generations becoming a lot smarter than they are today. We can’t continue to bribe our way to economic prosperity without those crony capitalist handouts cannibalizing our tax base. Nor can we expect to bring high-paying jobs to this state – and grow high-paying jobs from within our state – when the only thing our workers are good at is stacking boxes.
Haley should have rolled out an aggressive academic reform agenda during her campaign – not a hodgepodge of half measures. And the fact she’s just getting around to “starting a conversation” on the issue two years into her term is flat out inexcusable.
Tens of thousands of children are trapped in failing government-run schools in South Carolina every year. They don’t need a “conversation,” they need a way out. Meanwhile tens of thousands of taxpaying parents deserve the right to use their own money to find a better academic setting for their children.
Most importantly? Our failed government system desperately needs to be subjected to the only “accountability” that’s worth a damn – the accountability of the marketplace.