Senators: Here’s How SC Should Respond To Education Ruling

REAL REFORMS NEEDED TO FIX A BROKEN SYSTEM By KEVIN BRYANT and TOM DAVIS  ||  Last month, the state Supreme Court ruled that the General Assembly had failed in its constitutional duty to provide students in some of the state’s most impoverished schools districts with an opportunity to receive a “minimally…


sc senate tBy KEVIN BRYANT and TOM DAVIS  ||  Last month, the state Supreme Court ruled that the General Assembly had failed in its constitutional duty to provide students in some of the state’s most impoverished schools districts with an opportunity to receive a “minimally adequate education,” and ordered it to identify and solve the problems. We believe the court overstepped its authority in this ruling and acted (as the dissent to the Court’s ruling puts it) “as a super-legislature,” but that’s an argument for another day. Right now, it’s more important to analyze what the court said and to consider what an appropriate legislative response might be.

We think the legislative inquiry must begin with an understanding that the court did not rule that the amount of money spent on the state’s system of free public schools was insufficient. It made this point time and again: “It is striking that the parties have focused narrowly on a struggle between education expenditures and education outcomes”; “It is time for the Defendants to take a broader look at the principal causes for the unfortunate performance of students … beyond mere funding”; and “the evidence demonstrates an intersection of statutes and ever increasing funding streams.”

Not surprisingly, however, the court’s clear directive — i.e., stop throwing money at the problem and start focusing on why, as “there is a clear disconnect between spending and results” — has been ignored by the education professionals. The S.C. School Boards Association, the S.C. Association of School Administrators and the S.C. Association of School Business Officials, with help from a private law firm to whom they annually pay millions of dollars in fees, has come up with something called the S.C. Jobs Education and Tax Act, which they market using the clever acronym “SC JET.” The primary feature of SC JET, being prefiled as a bill in the state House of Representatives, is a massive new statewide property tax that a recent AP story says “is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The court rightly noted the General Assembly has “disproportionately funded poorer counties such as the Plaintiff Districts in the past with little noticeable impact on student achievement rates,” and we think SC JET and similar proposals to massively increase taxes in order to throw even more money into a broken system is legislative malpractice. If children in poorer school districts are not being provided an opportunity for an adequate education — and we agree with the court that they are not — then we should expand on a program that has actually worked for our most vulnerable children.


For years our state’s system of public education has failed special-needs students — those with Down syndrome, multiple sclerosis, autism, etc. No one seriously disputes that failure. In June 2013, after many stalled attempts, the General Assembly passed the Educational Credits for Special Needs Children budget proviso, and as a result hundreds of students with physical and cognitive challenges have been able to enroll in specialized private schools.

Here’s how it has worked: Individuals and corporations have made $13 million in charitable donations ($8 million since July, a sum limited by a statewide cap) to scholarship-funding organizations, which have awarded tuition scholarships to students with special needs, with strict documentation of each child’s learning needs. Parents select a school that best fits the needs of their child, and the choices are rich: More than 80 private schools participate, and more than 200 are eligible. Yes, allowing taxpayers to make $13 million in charitable donations “costs” the state, but the revenue forgone is substantially less than what traditional public schools were spending to provide inferior services to these children.

The court ordered the General Assembly to “comprehensively analyze the troubling issues preventing educational opportunity in the (impoverished) Districts,” and one way to provide immediate relief would be to expand the scope of this proviso to meet the needs of low-income families in those areas. That proviso already has proven that children’s lives can be meaningfully changed through parental decision-making, coupled with charitable giving, and there’s no reason children trapped in failing schools should be denied this immediate relief while the General Assembly goes about the larger task of enacting other necessary reforms.

Kevin Bryant is an Anderson, S.C. pharmacist who represents District 3 in the State Senate.  Tom Davis is a Beaufort, S.C. attorney who represents District 46 in the State Senate.


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Old Black Man Rocky December 12, 2014 at 2:36 pm

De policticians dez had dis idea dat we gets a credit from da tax wez pay to goes to a private school werez de childen gets a good edication. Buts downs here in Hampton, wez no gots a private schoolz for de childen, an wez cants afford de gas moneeey to pimp da ride ups to Columbia ors nears Beeufert. Soz I donts see howz de State helpin’ folks down here.

Taos December 12, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Here’s an easier solution, strike the “minimally adequate” language from the State’s constitution and insert language that it is the General
Assembly that has the sole authority to decide the appropriate level of State funding for the schools within the State, not some abstract construct subject to nebulous legal terms like “minimally” and “adequate”…. do this and send it to the voters for their approval in the next election cycle, then just ratify it… there, problem solved…

Smirks December 12, 2014 at 4:34 pm

strike the “minimally adequate” language from the State’s constitution

And this, folks, is how SC ends up in the national media and made out to be the laughing stock of the nation.

“We’ve failed to provide minimally adequate education, so we just removed the requirement! Why are we bottom of the barrel in education again?”

Taos December 12, 2014 at 7:30 pm

I could care less what you or the US thinks of what this state does… I’m a South Carolinian, not some f@cking carpet bagger like you… thus, go f@ck yourself.

SCBlues December 13, 2014 at 2:54 am

“I’m a South Carolinian, not some f@cking carpet bagger like you… thus, go f@ck yourself.”
This is Fitnews. You might as well get rid of all those fucking @’s

Timmy Tebow December 13, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Seems like Taos doesn’t have the balls to say fuck!

CaptainPalmetto December 15, 2014 at 6:02 pm

You both miss the point. There is NO “minimally adaquate” language anywhere in SC constitution provisions on education. The Supreme Court made up those words out of whole cloth per their interpretation of the Constitution. Can’t remove something that isn’t there.

Smirks December 12, 2014 at 4:31 pm

While commenters speculate on whether FITS is paid by Howard Rich, for Kevin Bryant there is no question.

Kevin Bryant – Senate
District 3

$1000 05/28/2012, Michael & Susanna Dokupil, 3617 Albans, Houston,

$1000 05/28/2012, Vanguard Prime MMF., 1420 Walnut St. Ste.
1011, Phila., PA

$1000 05/14/2012, Paul Farago,
PO Box 8907, Asheville, NC

$1000 05/14/2012, Robert Schor,
2419 Stuart St., Brooklyn, NY

$1000 05/14/2012, Cobden LLC,
1420 Walnut St. Ste 1011, Phila.,

$1000 05/14/2012, Spinksville LLC, 1420 Walnut St. Ste 1011, Phila., PA

$1000 05/14/2012, Silver & Silver, 1420 Walnut St. Ste 1011, Phila., PA

$1000 05/14/2012, Coolcal LLC,
1420 Walnut St. Ste 1011, Phila.,

$1000 05/14/2012, 188 Claremont LLC, 1420 Walnut St. Ste 1011, Phila., PA

Ed December 12, 2014 at 5:13 pm

Wow a lot of businesses in Philly love that dude. Coincidence? Hmm.

RogueElephant December 12, 2014 at 5:33 pm

Give tax credits to parents to send their children to what ever school they choose. Let the money follow the child. Sit back and watch parents vote with their feet. What do we have to lose ? Oh, that’s right , a few more generations of our children. The people of SC certainly don’t need another tax for ed. Remember all the “penny for progress” or some such crap ? Nothing is going to work till we give parents a way around the education establishment.

BIN News Editorial Staff December 12, 2014 at 8:36 pm

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference…

…between “Voucher Clowns” and “Voucher Pimps.”

But, krap like this post makes the distinction irrelevant.

A voucher clown is a voucher pimp. Tom-Tommie Davis, Kevin-Bimbo Bryant and SIc(ko) willie all qualify as voucher clowns and pimps for Howie the Voucher Clown.

Message to all voucher clowns – particularly Tom-tommie and Bimbo=Bryant. Quit pandering to Howie the Voucher Clown. People recognize your pandering,

nitrat December 15, 2014 at 9:07 am

And, Howie the Voucher Clown is the Cato disciple/bag man of/for the Koch Brothers.

Beartrkkr December 12, 2014 at 9:40 pm

Wonder what bastions of education exist in the rural Pee Dee areas that will be accepting a whole load of minority students? Hammond got a satellite campus?

9" December 12, 2014 at 11:43 pm

They can’t even write a check.It’s,Saint Peter’s Catholic School.Put an apostrophe ‘S’ on there.That means it’s theirs.
I know all about Catholic schools.When they manage to get in a public school,they’re put back a grade or two.

nitrat December 15, 2014 at 9:03 am

What is the documentation that SC public schools have failed special needs students?

Also: When Charter Schools are Non-Profit in Name Only


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