Education Issue Key To Election
November 5, 2002
I received the following e-mail from a Commonvoice.com reader from Charleston in response to my previous article called Hodges’ Debate Performance Shameful that illustrates the importance of the education issue in this week’s gubernatorial election in South Carolina:
I did not see the debate, but I am sure that your Republican leanings have clouded your judgement. I am a public school teacher, and I am proud of the job that I do in my classroom every day. If Mr. Sanford is elected, then my job and other teachers' jobs will be at stake. By the way, what average parent can take Mr. Sanford's voucher and make up the difference? If I wanted to send my child to Charleston Country Day School, I believe that would be $8,500 - $3,500 = $5,000. Could you lend me the difference so I could use Mr. Sanford's voucher and send my child to his children's school????? Let me know what you think.
In response to this teacher’s e-mail, I wrote the following:
Dear Mr. XXXXXX,
Thank you for writing to me today about my article “Hodges Debate Performance Shameful” posted on Saturday, November 2, 2002 on Commonvoice.com. If you had watched the lively final debate between Mark Sanford and Gov. Jim Hodges on Friday night on SCETV, then you would have a better understanding about the subject of my article and why I wrote what I did. Nevertheless, your comments bring up some interesting points.
First, let me say that I admire you for being a public school teacher. I think your profession is the most underappreciated job in America today. You are entrusted with an incredible responsibility for shaping and molding the minds of children who will grow up to lead this great land we live in. Without your sacrifice and hard work, education in the United States would not exist. I am very proud of you and every other public school teacher in America.
I grew up in the public school system in Florida and Tennessee. I can certainly remember seeing the problems in public schools as a student, most notably the lack of effective discipline from teachers. I would have been able to learn so much more about the subjects being taught in the same amount of time had there not been any disruptions as a result of unruly kids. It was not until I began taking advanced level courses in high school and college that I was finally able to be in a learning environment where I could actually learn something and not be distracted by other children who did not want to be there. Public schools, I assume, still have some semblance of this problem at varying levels today.
That is why private schools, homeschooling and charter schools have become a popular option for parents who are fed up with public education. Parents are willing to pay good money to put their child in a better environment for learning. In fact, my wife received her education from a Christian high school and graduated second in her class. She tested much higher on standardized tests than her peers in the public schools in Virginia.
While public school advocates like to view any other education method as inferior to public schools, the fact is that private schools, homeschooling and charter schools are doing a much better job of educating children than public schools. Just look at test scores and overall achievement comparisons for the evidence. By the way, hasn’t a homeschooled child won the National Spelling Bee several times in the past few years?
Second, I do not agree with your assertion that electing Mark Sanford as the next governor of South Carolina will mean that your job is at stake as a public school teacher. Rather, Mr. Sanford's school voucher plan will make public education even better by offering more competition with private schools. As a teacher, you may view this as a threat, but I see it differently (and not just because I happen to lean Republican, either!).
In every area of the economy where there is competition, the ultimate winner is the consumer. In the case of education, the children represent the consumer and public and private schools are the competing businesses. Having additional choices for students may actually help weed out ineffective teachers and school administrators who are restricting progress in education. In the end, this is a VERY GOOD THING for education.
While vouchers may not pay 100% of the costs for private schooling, giving parents the option to use THEIR tax dollars to pay for their children's education costs is a better than fair proposal for improving education. If a school is failing to give a good education to a student, then that student should be able to go to another school without penalty. After all, if the parents will not be using the public school system to educate their children, then why shouldn't they be allowed to use that money elsewhere to help defray education costs?
Moreover, with nearly 70% of local property taxes going to fund education, isn’t there already plenty of money available for public schools to educate the 90% or more of the children who will remain in public schools? The problem is not a lack of money. The problem is the distribution of the money that is supposed to go to education expenses. Mark Sanford wants to help eliminate administrative waste so that more education dollars will go towards education.
Finally, while I certainly sympathize with the concerns in your e-mail on the basis of Sanford’s education plan putting your job under the microscope, I happen to think that is a good thing that will insure that our children are receiving the best education possible. As a teacher, you have to agree that giving our children the best possible education is the most important element in this debate. And that is why Mark Sanford should be and will be elected the next governor of the state of South Carolina.