SHARE

SOUTH CAROLINA’S FUTURE GENERATIONS NEED “LEADERSHIP, NOT PROMISES”

tom ervinBy Tom Ervin  ||  One report on the recent escalation of inmate violence in prisons across South Carolina reads, “Inmates were literally pulling cinder blocks out of the walls…”  What can we do to repress the violence?  The answer always seems to be hire more guards, build more secure prisons — spend more money.

The problem is we already spend $16,542 per inmate in South Carolina.

What’s worse is that we only spend $9,877 per public student in South Carolina.

Ranked 10th in the United States for incarceration, our state sends more people to prison than the other 40 states.

What’s the quickest path to incarceration?  Research consistently proves that dropping out of high school and college is the cause.  A student who drops out of high school is 63 percent more likely to end up in prison compared to a college graduate.

How do we stack up to the rest of the country when it comes to graduation rates?  South Carolina ranks in the bottom third of states, and dead last when it comes to rural communities.

Something must change — statistically we are sentencing our children to a future of poverty and incarceration.

Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  As long as we continue to spend more of our tax dollars on criminals than our students — our future — I think it’s safe to say South Carolina’s priorities are insane and we should expect the same result: more prisoners, less graduates.

Every child, regardless of economic background, has a fundamental right to a quality education.  Not just because it will save us money in the long term, but because they deserve an opportunity—– that’s the promise of America.

Funding priorities are not the only plague on our education system.  We know throwing money at the problem doesn’t solve it.  We need to reform our education system from its foundation.  Every child must have access to a solid start with pre-K.

We now have decades of research that show substantial and sustained benefits from introducing children to classrooms at an early age, including increased high school graduation, employment and decreased incarceration.  That’s right, decreased incarceration rates — starting to see a pattern?

Pre-K also has remarkable short-term benefits.  Data from a pre-K study conducted in Oklahoma showed that poor students who attended public pre-K were 11 months ahead of their peers when entering kindergarten, and near-poor students were 10 months ahead, but even middle-class students were seven months ahead.

Pre-K isn’t cheap, but investing our tax dollars in preschool for disadvantaged students is cost-effective, yielding long-term benefits of as much as $10 for every $1 spent.

It’s also worth noting that the pre-K system in Oklahoma is funded by a public-private partnership.  We should welcome the same type of financing strategy here in South Carolina.

In addition to pre-K for every child, school choice should also be a fundamental right afforded to every parent and child in our state. Children learn differently — speeds, styles, atmospheres — ask any teacher.  Parents must be empowered to send their children to whichever school they believe will best serve them, whether it’s a charter school, public school, magnet school or home schooling.

To ensure parents truly have choices in their child’s education, we must address Common Core.  We do not need President Barack Obama telling us that Washington knows how to teach our kids better than we do.  While Gov. Nikki Haley has been all over the map on the issue, I am steadfast in my position.  We don’t need Common Core, we need common sense.

We also must give every child the opportunity of an affordable college education.  I propose we lock in college tuition at the freshman year.

Locking in college tuition at the freshman year has three benefits.  First, it helps cash-strapped families and students better manage costs. Second, locking in tuition rates for four years incentivizes students to graduate on-time.  Last, fixed-rate tuition stabilizes funding for our universities and allows them to plan with more predictability.

KidsCount released its 2014 survey on the well-being of our nation’s children: South Carolina’s children ranked 43rd in the country on education. Our state government has refused to take ownership of this problem.  We need more than promises of education reform: We need leadership to translate ideas into action.

Tom Ervin is an independent Republican candidate for governor.  This piece – reprinted with permission – originally ran in The Greenville News.  For more information on Ervin and his candidacy, go to trustintom.com.