The South Carolina House has passed the so-called “school choice” bill. The name of the bill is a misnomer intended to misdirect the public. The law’s name indicates a single, concise consequence: giving citizens a choice. Yet the most significant choice has already been made by the House. Our representatives have decided that if the state extends any financial assistance towards education, it should extend only to its most privileged forms.
If yours is one of the few families in SC able to afford private education, then congratulations, soon you may be able to write off $4,000 of that expense at the end of the year. If you are poor, well, congratulate your wealthier friends.
If passed by the Senate, the bill will lose $37 million in state revenue. $37 million will shift away from public education, and into the hands of the privileged few.
I want to reiterate a couple of points I made on .
First, Republicans like Lindsay Graham have blamed the plight of our public schools on unfortunate circumstances which seem, at first glance, to fall outside the legislature’s purview. For instance, Marion County schools are in disrepair because the poor community is not paying enough in property taxes to circulate the requisite funding. I have implied before that this is disingenuous and faulty logic, employed as a means of avoiding responsibility.
It is the self-fulfilling perversion of a biblical story. In Matthew 26:11, Jesus said, “…you will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.” Jesus’ disciples were upset because a woman had just used a very expensive ointment on his head. The disciples thought it would be better to sell the ointment and give the proceeds to the poor. However, the woman was using the ointment to prepare Jesus for his impending sacrifice. Jesus was admonishing his disciples to be mindful of the present, so as to fully enjoy their last moments together.
Conservatives often mistake this line as meaning something entirely different. If Jesus was saying, “poverty will always be here, there is nothing you can do to solve it,” then why should we waste resources trying to solve the unsolvable? Quoting the bible can, however, become a trite form of persuasion, even in the Deep South. Yet the same sentiment is implied in the policies put forth by the Republican legislature.
We see that sentiment at work with the “school choice” bill. On the one hand, the legislature is powerless to address the disparities across our public school system. On the other hand, the “school choice” bill shows them working very hard to address the cost of private school tuition.
Second, the push for privatization of SC education has been going steady ever since Brown v. Board. The states were admonished to integrate their public schools with “all deliberate speed.” South Carolina would achieve integration by 1974, 20 years after the Court’s decision. In the interim, private schools were developing everywhere. The 14th amendment could only apply to state activities – like public schooling. Therefore, you had to get your kids into a private school to shield them from integration.
I said it before; South Carolina’s elite have little personal interest in a strong public school system.
Republicans have been pushing this bill, unsuccessfully, since 2004. During that time, thoughts of adequately funding public schools have been pushed aside. For instance, we could not accept federal funding for our ailing school system because it was a one-time grant. Apparently, the best option is to not only refuse financial aid, but to deplete the resources we already have.
Forget the $144 million we rejected. This new legislation will have your children eating the cost of benefits, for the privileged, to the tune of $37 million.