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South Carolina Is Pro-Choice
Jimmy Moore
January 22, 2005

I have a right to choose. It is my right to make decisions for myself that personally affect me. Nobody can take away my choice because it is my right.

Isn't this exactly what we've been hearing from the pro-abortion crowd for the past three decades? Well, I'm here to announce that I too believe in the right to choose and will make my own decision about something that I have a right to make my choice about.

But it's not on the issue of abortion. Instead, I have a right to choose in education.

The pro-choice movement in South Carolina is alive and well thanks to some courageous leaders willing to expend political capital to go against the fray for the sake of many future generations of young minds that hunger for knowledge.

As the second-to-worst state in education in the United States, it certainly wouldn't hurt to take a look at other options available since the current system is failing miserably at adequately teaching our students and preparing them for college and beyond.

And the answer is not more money as failed U.S. Senate candidate and Education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum keeps pushing down our throats. The steady increase in education funding can be traced back to the 1960, but the byproduct of that incredible 450% increase in spending has been nothing but disaster.

Billions upon billions of dollars have been thrown at education only to see South Carolina with the largest high school dropout rates in the nation, the lowest overall SAT scores, and some of the worst reading and math scores in America.

The time has come in South Carolina to put parents in charge of their child's education and allow them to have the choice about where they send their child to school.

The results in states such as Arizona, Michigan, Florida as well as in Washington, D.C. have been nothing short of phenomenal. Empowering parents has created a euphoric sense of ownership in their student's education and has helped make education more about teaching students than being worried about passing standardized tests.

It's time we give tax credits to those parents who currently or want to home school their child or send them to a private or another public school. This is the basis for the "Put Parents In Charge" plan, or H. 3204, currently under consideration by the state legislature, the only school choice plan that does not use public money to pay for it.

Most people agree that giving parents the responsibility for choosing which school will be best for their child is the right thing to do. If a school is failing to educate children, then why would we want that school to continue? If it were a business, it would be forced to close because it is no longer serving the community. Why should our schools be any different?

While Gov. Mark Sanford is a strong proponent of school choice, this really isn't about him. It's about those children who will be leading our state in the decades to come. Aren't we doing them a disservice by forcing them to remain in a public school that has failed them year after year? We must fight on their behalf to insure they are educated well enough to succeed when they graduate from high school and begin competing with students from other states in the job market.

The public school monopoly has done nothing to make education better in South Carolina. In fact, I believe it has made things worse by stifling fair competition between different types of schools.

Imagine you were only allowed to shop for groceries at BI-LO. If you decided to shop at any other grocery store, it would cost you double the price on everything. That is essentially what the current education system is doing. Parents who are fed up with the public schools are sacrificing their budget to give their children a better education by opting for alternatives to the public schools. In the process, they are paying double for their child's education because the public school system is funded via property taxes regardless of whether it is used or not.

Of course, not everyone agrees that putting parents in charge is the best solution to the education malady in South Carolina.

Nu Wexler with the South Carolina Democratic Party (isn't this the party that's gotten slam dunked in back-to-back elections in South Carolina?) wrote a piece called "When Republican hacks attack" detailing his displeasure with parents wanting to have a choice about where to have their children educated.

In his line of fire is a group called South Carolinians for Responsible Government, the group heavily promoting the "Put Parents In Charge" movement. Wexler calls them the "Amway-funded foot soldiers of Gov. Sanford's voucher crusade."

Wexler accuses this group of being "partisan Republicans" because they are allegedly taking a "higher moral plane in the education funding debate."

Concerned that the proposed tax credit is nothing more than a "backdoor voucher," Wexler said this "non-partisan" group is hiding its close ties to the Republican Party.

Talk about avoiding the real problem by kicking up a bunch of dust that has nothing to do with the issue at hand! While Wexler wants to make this an "us vs. them" problem, most South Carolinians realize something needs to be done with education before it gets any worse. And, yes, it can certainly get worse!

The Greenville News asked some South Carolinians recently the question, "Would 'Put Parents in Charge' be good for our state?"

One person lamented that parents with children who opt to send their child to private schools would get a tax break that she would not be allowed to have because she does not have any children.

Well, those parents may get a tax break, but it will immediately go right back out of their budget when they pay for the private school. There's no economic advantage for these parents under this plan, but it gives them greater flexibility about their child's education.

This same person said she did not want her tax dollars to go towards paying for any "religious education," something she incorrectly notes is "banned by the U.S. Constitution."

I've never seen "religious education" being outlawed by the Constitution, but I may have missed it somehow. Regardless, this plan does not use any public money to pay for it. Instead, it allows parents to decide where that money will be spent on their child's education. It's their money, so they should decide. Who wouldn't agree that giving parents a choice in education is good for the children of South Carolina?

Another person in the story contends that if we allow parents to choose where their child is educated, then we have in essence "given up on our public school system."

My answer to this is a resounding no. It does not mean we have given up on public schools. Instead, we are giving these schools which have monopolized the education system for decades a little bit of competition. And therein lies the problem. They don't want any competition because it means there will be greater accountability to produce a high-quality education to attract students to their school. If a public school can't keep up with a better private school, then maybe it should be closed.

Finally, one last person describes the "Put Parents in Charge" plan as an "assault on public education" that will "destroy" what's left of public schools in South Carolina because it will "divert already scarce education funding resources" and "undermine the value of a public education."

Can this person hyperbolize his thoughts any more? This plan does not jeopardize public schools unless they aren't performing as well as their private counterparts. Money is not and has never been the problem with education in South Carolina. The real "value of a public education" is in those schools that are doing a fantastic job educating the students. There are many examples across the state where parents will decide their local public school is doing a great job providing knowledge to their child.

But in those areas where the public schools are inadequate, why not give parents a choice about where to send their child? Parents are given the responsibility to take care of their child in every respect, including their education. You need to contact your state legislator and tell him or her to support the "Put Parents In Charge" bill under consideration in the state House and Senate.

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Jimmy, Excellent argument. For more on Put Parents in Charge, you can go to http://www.leadaction.org/ Nancy Salvato . . .

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