- “It is amazing to me how the ‘no government’ folks want to get something from the government.”
- “A scholarship funded by business isn’t ‘charitable’ because incenting people to leave public schools isn’t in the public interest.”
- “School choice isn’t in the public interest because individuals decide, not the public.”
Now add to that the statements from the School Administrators Association recently in the Orangeburg Times & Democrat:
- “Everyone has a duty to support public education, whether you have a child in school or not.”
- “Many families want their children to be involved with religious training during the school day and that is fine. However, tax incentives should not support these religious programs.”
If these quotations were tallied, two Rules would emerge:
Rule 1. From here in official public administrationdom, we are compelled to remind you, the taxpayer, that we don’t earn our wings every day, we earned them once. End of discussion. So pay us…and only us. PS: (pause to take a big breath) Separation of Church and State!
Rule 2. If you are a parent considering asserting some “individual” right to oversee the education of your child or a “free” enterprise business wanting to choose what kind of educational effort you want to fund, see Rule 1.
I truly believe that one day we will look back and wonder why we ever had only one choice in schools, just like we wonder why it took so long to enjoy options for letters and packages, telephones, media, etc. Something about the arrogance and the defense of an often inferior, expensive product that the above statements represent sounds like the AT&T lawyers fighting the looming competition for Ma Bell in 1982.
And, not so different from the perspectives of Bell vs. MCI, pro- and anti- school choice advocates sound like they are from different planets.
Public School Only advocates argue that just like fire, police, and the National Guard, they and they alone should receive taxpayer support for their mission. Education is a job only government can do equitably. Competition for The System is silly, weird, elitist and even downright unpatriotic. To argue for any alternative to The System is to sully the aunt, mother, grandmother, cousin or best friend who gave her life to educating every child zoned for her classroom regardless of his academic aptitude.
School Choice supporters see K-12 like the other two education sectors, early childhood and college, where taxpayer dollars fund all alternatives and the individual taxpayer chooses what fits for her child best. They see K-12 education not like the National Guard, where a single force and a government chain on command is crucial, but more like every other vital service in the economy where the best product at the best price is a win for everyone. And, like every first year law student would tell you, there is no Church-State separation issue with school choice. Existing programs like Education Lottery scholarships are being used by students at Christian universities like North Greenville, the G.I. Bill being was used to send combat veterans to Bob Jones and state early childhood funding supports kids at First Baptist Preschools.
To provide a practical example, a microcosm of how School Choice would work is the enterprise of urgent package delivery. We may ship with the Post Office from time to time because it is convenient, but when it really matters, we will go with a private service. We also know if the private firm makes a mistake, we can demand satisfaction and there will be consequences for failure. I’ve never had FedEx tell me they lost my package because they were underfunded, and my UPS driver would be devastated if I weren’t 100% satisfied with his service.
If we are to move South Carolina forward economically, well-educated citizens are the key. But given our ranking, we must make quantum leaps. School Choice offers a tremendous opportunity.
As we move in that direction, School Choice advocates should respect public school teachers who work long hours for short pay and suffer under the weight of mounds of paperwork. They want to see change just like the rest of us.
In turn, public school only advocates should resist the sense of entitlement that Rule 1 and Rule 2 represent and understand the incredible sacrifices parents make to pay twice for school. In the case of parent tutors (home school), a mother’s life is totally dominated by educating her children. Talk about parental involvement! That should be encouraged, and at a tax credit of $1,000, it seems like a good deal for us all.
Oran P. Smith is President of Palmetto Family Council, a faith-based public policy research organization founded in South Carolina in 1994. PFC has supported School Choice from the beginning, and is not aware of any funding from billionaires.