Legislators Ponder Education Reform

February 2, 2010

Investigative Reports

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The NerveOn Thursday, Jan. 7, more than 150 people met in Columbia to hear what is planned to improve the system of education in South Carolina during this next legislative session.

Noting that South Carolina has an on-time high school graduation rate of 55 percent, the lowest SAT scores in the South, and still spends 40 percent of its General Fund on education, it’s obvious that substantial change is needed to fix a broken system.

Speaking before the group was Senator Robert Ford (D-Charleston) and Representative Eric Bedingfield (R-Greenville). Senator Ford is the primary sponsor of S 520, the South Carolina Education Opportunity Act, and is determined to get the bill out of committee during this session.

S 520 addresses tax credits and scholarships along with measures of accountability. As Senator Ford has said, “The traditional public school model is failing. The tax credits help middle income families and the scholarships help the low-income families.”

Representative Bedingfield, a father of four, champions school choice in the House and will be pushing H 3802, paralleling the Education Opportunity Act.

Bedingfield was quick to point out that no two children are alike and a public school system that leans toward “one size fits all” is bound to fail.

It is ironic that the platform of the Republican Party in South Carolina states; “We support the concept of ‘school choice’ and do not fear the healthy competition that will result from equitable voucher and charter school plans.”

Yet, with a Republican majority in both the Senate and the House, school choice can not get out of committee for a vote.

Maybe this year members of the Assembly will take off the blinders, read the Education Opportunity Act, and give every child in South Carolina the opportunity to have a quality education. Let us hope they do it not just because it is in the Republican platform, but as Senator Ford has said, because “IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO!”

Ed Rumsey is a retired Air Force pilot with a small business on Historic Ram Cat Alley in Seneca.