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FreedomWorks Activists Call for Senate to Pass School Choice Bill

Proponents of a school choice bill held a press conference urging legislators to pass the bill that would allow parents to have more freedom when choosing their child's education.

FreedomWorks activists urged senators on Tuesday to pass school choice reform legislation before the end of the session so South Carolina parents will have the freedom to choose schools that they say will best meet their child's need. 

"We want freedom," Myrtle Beach Tea Party chairman Joe Dugan said. "Freedom to get the best education for our children so that they can become productive members of our society and not be a burden on our society."

"The public school monopoly has failed us and we want other choices."

Dugan criticized the amount of money that is actually spent in the classroom at public schools and superintendent salaries. 

"They build their own empires with wasteful administrative costs that steal precious dollars from our children that need the help the most."

Dugan along with other Tea Party members from around the state, Senator Larry Grooms, R-Berkley, and Rep. Eric Bedingfield, R-Greenville, called on senators to pass a school choice bill that would "empower families" to choose other options for educating their child. 

In March with a vote of 65-49, the House passed bill H.4894, which would provide income tax deductions to parents whose child attends a private school, home school or public school outside the home school district.

The bill also “authorize a credit against a taxpayer’s income tax liability or certain other tax liability for contributions made to nonprofit scholarship organizations that provide grants for children who are eligible for free or reduced lunch, who are exceptional needs children or whose families meet the requirements for federal Medicaid benefits to attend private schools of their choice.”

Now it's the Senate's turn to vote.

"We don’t want school choice to pass the Senate by a slim margin, but we’ll accept that," Dugan said. "What we do want, is school choice to pass by an unanimous vote of the Senate."

Duane Hartgrove, vice chairman of the Columbia Tea Party, agrees the public school system is failing and legislators needed to give parents more options.

“We’ve got kids going to $200 million schools in this state,” Hartgrove said. “We’ve got kids going to decrepit schools. “Its just not right. There are a lot of people in this state that would like to send their kids to Christian schools (or) private schools."

"They ought to have a benefit of a tax credit."

Bedingfield said while public schools worked for him and his family, he doesn't think public schools will work for all and that's why he supports giving parents school choice. 

"It works because my wife and I are constantly involved in their day-to-day education," Badingfield said. "It doesn’t work for families who aren’t involved in their children’s education. It doesn’t work for families who are somewhat apathetic about the education process."

"What I believe school choice does is empower parents, give them a feeling of control."

Opponents of the bill say it would take away $37 million from public schools. 

Rep. Ted Vick, D-Chesterfield, said he was concerned about shifting state money to private schools that aren't required to operate on the same criteria as public schools, according to his capitol report published in The Cheraw Chronicle.

Also making news in Columbia today:

Mimi April 24, 2012 at 09:51 PM
Hey I don't understand what the problem is parents should be able to send their children to whatever school they want as long as they PAY FOR IT and supply the transporation. I think in a free market world people shouldn't be asking our TAXPAYERS to yet agains supliment the income of the rich. So if you got a problem with the public school systems or you have a special needs child send them wherever you want, but the tax payer shouldn't EVER be asked to pay for YOUR choices.
SDR April 25, 2012 at 01:10 AM
I'll bet you wouldnt say that about birth control.
Robert Kelly April 25, 2012 at 01:38 AM
I think tax credits are a problem because the private school could then charge whatever tuition they wanted, with parents and administrators knowing the cost will be paid by the parents' income taxes. If schools are going to be paid for with tax dollars, then there should be the same oversight that any tax-funded program has. And there might even be a constitutional problem with tax dollars being diverted to religious institutions. Maybe a tax deduction for private school tuition could be legitimate. We have deductions for mortgage interest, charitable (including religious) donations, and certain other expenses. People in bad school districts should have some recourse. People in good school districts probably don't have such a need, and wealthy people can afford the private schools...but what about poor counties where property taxes are simply not enough to support a strong school system? Don't those kids count?
John H April 25, 2012 at 04:10 AM
This bill is being touted as a boon for education but it is a pretense. If you are interested in improving education in SC, this falls woefully short. No tax dollars will actually fund private schools. Indirectly it might be construed as such by giving families who already send their children or donate to private schools a meager state tax deduction thereby giving them the impetus to go private. It’s not nearly enough to make a difference, representing a net benefit of a couple of hundred dollars. The $37 million number being tossed around merely reflects an approximation of unrealized tax revenue to the states general fund. About 43% of the general fund goes to education. Schools in SC will theoretically loose about $15.9 million in available funds which represents one half of one percent of the 3.3 billion education dollars derived from state revenue streams. http://www.scrgfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Foundation-Funding-Paper-2011.pdf
David Jones April 25, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Private school/homeschool tax deductions are not the right direction for South Carolina to move. House Bill 4894 is presented to the public as a way to help underprivileged students attend private schools. You must keep in mind that 1) Private schools can accept or reject the admission of any student they choose. Public schools certainly do not have that right (thankfully). 2) While parents would get a tax deduction and could get scholarship money for their children, the parent would still have to pay 25% of the private school tuition. That would certainly eliminate most underprivileged children from enrolling in a private school. Our legislators should focus on using the money that they would take out of the General Fund to allow for these proposed tax deductions and use the funds to move closer towards fully funding the public schools. As a supporter of public schools, you should immediately contact your state senator and let him know your views. It is important. My state representative, Chip Huggins, tells me he never hears from people who are against the private school/homeschool tax deductions proposal. I know he has heard from me! The bill has passed in the House, but not in the Senate. Call or email your state senator today! And even call your state representative. While the bill has passed in the House, you still need to let your house representative know that the majority of South Carolinians oppose this bill.

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