Nine “Republicans” – including four “former” Democrats and the self-proclaimed “conservative” leader of the GOP-controlled South Carolina Senate – voted against a scaled down parental choice measure this week. The vote to reject the measure – which was sponsored by longtime school choice champion Larry Grooms – comes as many of these lawmakers are opting to join Democrats in advancing U.S. President Barack Obama’s signature government-run early childhood education initiative.

Astounding, isn’t it? When it comes to advancing academic achievement for future generations, the S.C. Senate is choosing the documented failure of costly top-down programs like Head Start over the proven success of choice, which has been adopted in some form or fashion in every other Southern state.

Are these Chicago Aldermen? Or South Carolina Senators? Seriously … even liberals are starting to embrace the need for parental choice.

Sadly, narrow status quo thinking is par for the course in this “most Republican state in the nation,” which is home to the worst government-run school system in America. Our leaders don’t seem to want solutions, they just want to throw more money at the problem and call it a solution (all evidence to the contrary).


Voting against Grooms’ choice plan were the following fiscally liberal Senators: Thomas Alexander (RINO-Oconee), Paul Campbell (RINO-Berkeley), John Courson (RINO-Richland), Ronnie Cromer (RINO-Newberry), Wes Hayes (RINO-York), Hugh Leatherman (RINO-Florence), Larry Martin (RINO-Pickens), Billy O’Dell (RINO-Abbeville) and Luke Rankin (RINO-Myrtle Beach). Four of those lawmakers – Leatherman, Martin, O’Dell and Rankin – are former Democrats, so their opposition to market-based education reforms isn’t surprising. Meanwhile Courson, Hayes and Martin have been consistent supporters of South Carolinas failed government-run establishment for years.

The big surprise on this list? Cromer – whose district strongly supports choice. In fact our sources in Newberry County tell us that Cromer is already getting “lit up” over his vote against this bill – as he should be given the number of parochial schools in his district eager to offer academic programs to students in their communities.

Perhaps Cromer was just confused?

One surprise “no” vote on the Democratic side was S.C. Sen. Robert Ford (D-Charleston), who a few short years ago was championing a much more aggressive parental choice platform. According to our sources, former S.C. Democratic Party chairman Dick Harpootlian – who once said he didn’t want to “buy the black vote” so much as “rent it for a day” – finally got to Ford.

Talk about a helluva day to “rent” a Senator …

The battle is far from over, though. Despite this setback, it’s becoming abundantly clear literally anything can happen in the coming days in the Senate – where the budget process has totally unraveled. The State Senate’s old guard – led by the notoriously corrupt Leatherman – is on its heels, struggling to maintain the order .

Used to ramming through a budget and dictating terms to all constituencies, Leatherman no longer has his reliable Democratic base. Why not? The current version of the budget does not contain an expansion of Medicaid associated with Obama’s socialized medicine law – a.k.a. “Obamacare.” As a result, Democrats are refusing to vote for it.

That means the “Republican” finance chairman is actually having to … perish the though … court “Republican” votes to get his budget passed.

Increasingly, it’s looking as though a school choice bill will be part of that negotiating process.

Anyway, this website does a lot of criticizing (with good reason), but we’d like to take a moment to praise the eighteen Republican Senators who stood up and supported this measure – and urge them to hold the line in their support of this legislation as the budget process moves forward.

After all given the chaos in the “upper” chamber this year – anything can happen.


Pic: Travis Bell Photography