As I continue my look at ways to improve education in Fairfield County, let’s look at the idea of school choice.
As I walk around town I often get asked about things in the political world, but mostly I get asked out my involvement in the charter school and the idea of school choice.
The question I often hear is what is school choice?
School choice is the practice of allowing the tax dollars you pay each year to follow the child as the parent sees fit.
Your child may learn best in a religious school, a free public charter school, a private school, a free public virtual school or a traditional public school.
The beauty of school choice is you, the parents, decide what is best for your child, not the government or the zip code you live in.
As I talk to parents who are struggling to work two jobs to put their children in Richard Winn, they don’t know what they are going to do when their second or third child starts kindergarten and their tuition bill goes from lasts years’ total of $5,232 to $10,464 to $15,696 each year.
With the average household income in Fairfield County of $32,022, that is impossible.Imagine being able to use the taxes you already pay and apply them to Cardinal Newman, Richard Winn, or the new charter school.
If you think one of your children is better fit for the local public school, you can keep him or her there.
If another one of your children would learn better at Richard Winn you can send her there.
If your third child would excel in a charter school environment you can send him there.
The bottom line is, you, the parent, know what is best for your children, not the federal, state or local government.
(I love when politicians say we cannot afford school choice. Wake up! It is our money, the taxpayers, who send it to you.) Private school should not just be for the elite.
Our own State Senator Creighton Coleman talks about sending one of his children to Richard Winn and another to private school in Columbia.
I think that is great, but everyone should have the opportunity to decide where to send their children, not just the political and economical elite.
The School Choice Bill that passed in the South Carolina House but failed in the Senate was rather weak in my opinion.
It did have some good parts such as providing the funding of tuition for children who were on Medicaid or who received subsidized lunches.
The program also would benefit the children who have special needs.
For children who are not in either of these categories, their parents would receive a tax credit of up to $4,000 to apply to the school of their…. wait for it …choice.
Imagine that, a bill sponsored by Republicans to benefit low income and special needs children.
You would think that Republicans and Democrats would line up to support this bill.
Unfortunately this bill did not even get a vote on the floor of the S.C. Senate.
Who is to blame for this? Democrats and Republicans both are to blame.
If we keep doing the same thing we have been doing, we are going to keep getting the same lousy results we have been getting. In Fairfield County, less than half of the students who start high school graduate.
Is that acceptable? No. We wonder why industry will not locate in Fairfield. We know why, because the education students receive is sub-par.
Who is to blame for that? We all are! You who sit on the couch and say, “it is what it is, let someone else do something about it,” you are the problem.
You, who move out of the county or give a fake address to Richland or Kershaw county so your kids can go there, you are the problem.
What can we do about it? As the election season shifts into high gear, ask the candidates for S.C. House 41 William Gray and Mary Gail Douglas how they stand on school choice.
Ask the men who are running for S.C. Senate 17 Bob Carrison and Creighton Coleman where they stand on school choice.
With the three school board seats up for election ask them where they stand on school choice. (I think I know the answer.)
Ask the candidates running for county council who determines the funding for education in the county where they stand.
Get off of the couch and get involved. School choice might be the answer to improving the education your child or grandchild receives.
I have given you something to ponder.
Had enough, vote Republican.