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Support Grows For SC School Choice Bill

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Last week, we reported that South Carolina state senator Tom Davis had filed a $60 million parental choice bill – one that would expand the state’s fledgling special needs program, begin providing scholarships to low income children and offer long-overdue incentives to parents who choose to homeschool their kids.

Is this bill a huge deal?  Yes … but also no.

On the one hand, it would mark a dramatic expansion and diversification of the state’s existing $11 million special needs-only choice program.

On the other hand, it’s nowhere near enough.  In the current state budget, South Carolina’s “Republican” leaders are spending $11.7 billion (or $16,211 per child) on the worst government-run school system in America.

That amount is set to rise in the spending plan for the coming year …

Surely with billions of dollars being funneled into guaranteed failure, lawmakers should be more than willing to send $60 million toward a system that offers a small group of children a chance to escape the one-size-fits-all status quo.

Right?

Also, these are exclusively privately funded scholarships … individuals and entities looking to help children in need.  Should they not be allowed to keep more of their own money in the form of dollar-for-dollar tax credits to do that?

Of course they should …

South Carolina’s state motto (one of them, anyway) is dum spiro spero – “while I breathe, I hope” – but sadly we’re not holding our breath that GOP politicians in the Palmetto State will do the right thing here.

For far too long they have been slaves to the same old “minimally adequate” system … more concerned about feeding the demands of a failed bureaucracy than addressing the chronic academic woes of the tens of thousands of children who are being failed.

Fortunately, Davis’ bill – which represents another small step in a fourteen-year effort to provide some market-based accountability to this failed system – is drawing strong initial support.

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For starters, one of the state’s biggest school choice groups – Palmetto Kids First – is endorsing it.

In an email to her organization’s 2,500 supporters, Palmetto Kids First executive director Olga Lisinska praised the bill – and thanked Davis profusely for filing it.

“This is HUGE!!!” Lisinska wrote, adding “this bill is EVERYTHING (and more) that parents and school officials have been asking for since 2014.”

In addition to expanding the scholarship program, Lisinska praised the legislation for making it part of permanent state law (currently school choice is authorized each year as a proviso in the state budget).  She also touted the measure for restoring control over the scholarship-granting process back to the private sector.

Beyond this grassroots support, Davis’ bill is also getting legislative backing.  A companion bill to Davis’ legislation – H. 4932 – has been introduced in the S.C. House of Representatives.  So far it has drawn ten co-sponsors, including newly elected state representative Nancy Mace of Daniel Island, S.C.

“When parents have only one choice, they have no choices,” Mace told us.

(Click to view)

(Via: S.C. House of Representatives/ Same Holland)

One of many candidates who campaigned on expanded choices for parents, Mace (above) sent a letter to her constituents last weekend informing them of her decision to sponsor the House bill – which was originally introduced by state representative Jason Elliott.

“I am proud to get behind legislation that expands options for parents and students,” Mace wrote.  “As a mother I understand firsthand that one size doesn’t fit all and I’m passionate about the education needs of our children.”

Davis told us he was “gratified by the support choice expansion is receiving in the House.”

“I look forward to working with legislators in both chambers and both parties to get this bill to the governor’s desk as soon as possible,” he said.

Davis added that “every year we need to take steps toward more choices and greater market-based accountability over our state’s academic outcomes.”

Amen to that … let’s just hope lawmakers summon the courage to take those steps instead of continuing to hypocritically pay lip service to school choice.

Props to Davis, Elliott, Mace and all the state lawmakers who are on board with this much-needed “next step” on the road to real academic freedom in the Palmetto State.

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