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“Public School Choice” Isn’t Choice

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We’ve been hearing about so-called “public school choice” since the days of Jim Rex – South Carolina’s status quo superintendent of education turned failed gubernatorial candidate.

This meaningless term provided welcome cover for state lawmakers wanting to seem supportive of “parental choice” – but also wanting maintain their supplicant relationship with the taxpayer-subsidized elites at the S.C. Education Association (SCEA), S.C. School Boards Association (SCSBA) and S.C. Association of School Administrators (SCASA).

You know, the people “fighting for the kids.”

Anyway things haven’t changed much. Three familiar “Republicans in Name Only” – Wes Hayes, John Courson, and Larry Martin – continue to trot out “public school choice” legislation as some sort of solution while they do everything within their power behind the scenes to block meaningful market-based education reform.

In theory, their bill – S.313 – allows students to transfer to public schools in other districts. However in reality this legislation erects a host of bureaucratic barriers aimed at preventing a child from moving schools. Between strict limits on the percentage of transferring students – and required permission from administration in both residential and receiving districts – the number of students who would actually be able to enroll in a new school would be virtually non-existent.

In other words, the sponsors of this bill aren’t proposing anything the state’s education establishment has already deemed to be 100 percent “reform free.”

And so Hayes, Courson, and Martin will halfheartedly support the bill, knowing full well that it will quietly die on the vine before they start getting phone calls from superintendents and soccer moms complaining about poor black kids wanting to enroll in their “high-achievement” districts.

Everyone sees this “public school choice” ploy for what it is, but hardly anyone ever calls its supporters out.

Who isn’t afraid to do that? S.C. Sen. Kevin Bryant (R-Anderson).

“S. 313 may seem like a baby step towards universal school choice on its surface, but the bill doesn’t really ‘open’ very much,” Bryant wrote recently on his website. “It has a cap of 3 percent, so in reality it leaves 97 percent of the public children behind.”

Bryant adds that “S.313 is tainted with several loopholes that districts can maneuver to burden parents with children with unmet educational needs.”

We agree …

South Carolina is flooded with faux conservatives touting all sorts of “reform in name only.” This bill is yet another example of that – of Palmetto State politicians wanting to give the appearance of doing something while tens of thousands of children fall further behind.

Props to Bryant for having the courage to expose this “public school choice” fraud for what it is – and shame on Hayes, Courson and Martin for continuing to perpetuate it.

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