Saturday, May 02, 2009

Just say no to government ran private schools

The so called school choice bill passed a hurdle recently when it passed out of committee in the South Carolina Senate. That caused a chorus of rejoicing from the highly paid political operatives that advocate for the bill. Look for those highly paid political operatives and the Governor’s people to issue the classical political “full court press,” over the closing weeks of the legislative session. While it could be argued that the “school choice” bill should be about 10th on the list of legislative priorities to debate, political forces will make that bill near the top of the list. There is too much money and potential power at stake.

Make no mistake; this argument comes down to money and pure politics. While there are “true believers” out there, the major players in the debate are well paid political operatives and people with alternative agendas. Kids and parents are played to, not championed.

Take liberals like Robert Ford. Not only does Ford like the big money that now flows to his campaign coffers, but liberals like him can use the school choice legislation to open the door to government ran private schools. Historically when government money, directly or indirectly, goes to a private institution, it eventually comes with strings attached. It happened to private colleges when they accepted students with government tuition grants. Even a memo from the South Carolina Policy Council touting the Pennsylvania private school grant program noted that parents could only choose from schools that met government standards. Frankly, parents who choose private school and poor parents who want to help their children are being misled.

Think about that. Perhaps an example should be presented. Most South Carolina parents who choose private schools do so for social and politically incorrect reasons. Take for example the parent who wants his child to have Bible study and Christian principles ingrained in his child’s education. As such, that parent sends his child to a Christian school that currently only accepts Christians and teaches Christian principles. With the eventual strings that come with government money, that school would face government regulation to get students with government money. Suddenly, the parent who had the choice to sacrifice to make sure his child got a Christian based education could have no real choice. The private school close enough to choose could become quasi public, compromising its principles for the money. How does that foster real choice? Does it not hand left wing liberals who have long resented the private schools, especially in the eastern part of South Carolina, a way to bring government control of the private schools that they loathe?

Of course, there is always the false argument that poor parents can send their children to private schools with the legislation. Let’s take a look at the poor example. Suppose a single mom in Allendale works two jobs to make about $35,000. That salary is used to support the single mom and two children. The closest private school is miles away, and its tuition is around $10,000 per student. How is a tax credit of $3500 going to help that parent make a choice?

So why are so many hell bent on opening the door to government regulation of private schools and misleading poor people? The answer is money. The money spent on the issue of so called school choice in South Carolina is unprecedented. So far, that money has not had results. Add to that a Governor who has been well financed by proponents of vouchers or tax credits for private schools from within and without the state is not so quietly seeking the Presidency. The political operatives and the Governor have to prove that they are worth the money spent on them. The political operatives with their groups and blogs have to win one to get paid again elsewhere. The Governor has to win one to get the money for his Presidential campaign.

So, look for the old “full court press” in the following weeks. Senator Ryberg’s twelve legislators behind on state taxes will likely be offered a deal to vote for the school choice bill and never be named. Look for the $700 million in stimulus money the Governor is holding up to somehow come into play. Do not be shocked if Governor Sanford compromises on the taking that money if the school choice bill passes. Look for the paid bloggers to go full forced against members of the General Assembly and people who work for this and that organization. Forget the economy; forget the chaos in DSS and the Department of Commerce, the Governor and his cohorts will stake it all on the choice bill. They have to. The money backing them wants that.

Who knows who will win the great urinating contest that will happen between the well paid school choice advocates and the education establishment? The losers are clear. The losers are the parents and children who are in the South Carolina education system. If the school choice advocates win, a small number of parents will get a tax break for sending their kids to private schools, but at the potential cost of ceding control of those schools to state control. If the establishment wins, the status quo, which is failing so many, prevails.

There has to be a better way. There has to be some way that the average parent who cannot afford private school, even with tuition tax credits, can expect some sort of public school reform. There has to be a way that big money and political power does not dictate what happens to the average man and his children. Let’s be clear. The school choice advocates are not conservatives. They advocate a government role in private schools. That is big government. The education establishment just wants to hold on to their fiefdoms. VUI says no to government ran private schools, and instead calls for public education reform.


  1. Well WillieMay 02, 2009

    This post pisses me off.

  2. Come on, Brian. This is a weak blog post.

    I can tell you if a parent that lives in Allendale wants their child to attend a private school, they will make it happen. Even if they have to drive 20 miles each way. They will make it happen. The tax credit may not pay for all of it, but will pay for some of it. Their may be "scholarships" available as well.

    This is a "choice" not mandatory. Let's also look at if the demand is there, then a church or some organization will provide a school for those kids to go to.

    You advocate reform? Then, why not support a bill that will bring competition? Why not give it a chance? Nothing else seems to work. What other reform measures have been proposed? What ideas do you have?

    I am all ears. I want reform. I think reform starts when the pocketbook of the educrats gets pinched. And I don't mean during a recession. I mean with competition. It happens with our university's, why not k-12?

    Just questions, but I think your argument for the status quo is weak.

  3. The problem, Rick, I have with the bill is does not offer true competition in the places that need it most.

    Let's face reality. A tax credit that is one third of most private school tuition is not going to give one poor black kid a chance. It is a ruse.

    Now, if there was full private school tuition scholarships on the table, I would agree.

    But, even then, until we address the ignorance of the adults in the culture of failure, we still will not have them make smart choices.

    It is not giving folks in ware Shoals a private school choice. In the Eastern part of the state, there is a pervasive culture of failure. I have been there. I have sat in those living rooms. I urge you to learn more about that area and the lack of hope that parents have, regardless of the money the educrats spend or the tax credits Sanford offers.

    Be real, Rick, and I like and respect you, but do you really think at $3500 tax credit for next year will give a single mom making $20000 a real choice to send her two kids to a $10000 a year private school?

    It is not those who can afford private schools that drag our education numbers down. It is those without hope.

    If the current bill becomes law, ten years from now we will have the same problem areas and government telling more private schools what they can do.

    Forgive me, I play chess. I always think two moves ahead.

  4. Rick, as for your point about private colleges, remember they found themselves at the alter of government regulation for government money, just the K-12 schools in Florida and Pennsylvania. Frankly government ran private schools seems like big government to me. No wonder Robert Ford likes it. Again, thinking two moves ahead.

  5. AnonymousMay 05, 2009

    chess is for RINO nerds

  6. AnonymousMay 05, 2009

    Please tell me Rick A. is not the guy on the State Board of Education.

  7. Brian,

    You are right, in ten years we may have the same problems. But, without trying something how will we know?

    I don't think it will cost $10k to educate a child in a private school. Will it be $3,500? Probably not, but most private schools are not Christ Church.

    With that being said, if you really want something bad enough, you will make it happen. A single mom making $20k will take the credit and get a second job.

    Remember, this is a choice! Not mandatory.

    This opportunity of choice may actually give some families "hope".

    Tax credits work differently from Vouchers. If you take a voucher, you are much more likely to have government intervention, and growing of government. A tax credit is with the taxpayer. Therefore, the institution is not under government control. The private school always will have the right to accept or refuse a student. Same with the parents. They don't have to accept the school. They can return to public schools or find another alternative.

    I want to reiterate, this is a choice!

    It will not be a choice for those above the income line. If it fails it fails. If it succeeds great. What have we got to lose?

    To fix our education system, we have to change it one kid at a time. It will take years for success to be measured, because ignorance is generational. Your parents and my parents wanted more for their children. A lot of parents are just looking for their next meal or their next fix. Therefore, it will take years to change the mindset.

    This is think a generation ahead. It will probably take that long to notice a significant change.

    And Yes anonymous, I am Rick Adkins, former State Board of Education Member. And long time school choice advocate.

    I think the public schools in Anderson and the upstate are very good. But in my dealings with others around the state, we are in pitiful shape. Maintaining the status quo, will only keep us at the bottom of the pile.

  8. AnonymousMay 11, 2009

    Rick... Obviously, you need to climb down from your ivory tower and price the (true) yearly cost of a private school education.

    $10,000 is on the high end but that's not too unusual (especially in rural areas with only a couple of private schools within a 30-mile drive). In my area, $7,000 is the lowest that I can find (and that school has a statement on their website that they are opposed to local/state/federal vouchers and will not accept them). My area has plenty of competition with 10 private schools within 30 miles.

    The true annual cost is not just tuition but also includes a non-refundable application fee, a non-refundable enrollment fee, book fees, and student insurance fees. If the child takes certain classes, then the parents also have to pay lab fees, computer fees, science class fees, physical education fees, language arts fees, cooking class fees, etc. Don't forget that the child will have to be transported to/from schools (either by the parent(s) or by a childcare service). At best, a $3,500 voucher would cut the cost by half.

    As for the single mom that you've said can take a second job, don't forget that she's gonna have to pay for an afterschool program and/or babysitter while she works that second job. So, the money she earns on the second job essentially will go to pay for the childcare that she needs while she's working that second job. Plus, if she's working those two jobs, then she's obviously not going to have as much time to spend with her child to raise them properly.

    You also forget that many private schools have policies that read something like:
    * Our private school will not enroll a student who has been expelled from his/her former school.
    * Our private school will not enroll a student with a prior record of unsatisfactory academic performance and/or disciplinary (or criminal) violations.
    So if a child has been expelled... if a child has struggled with his/her grades... if a child has gotten into lots of trouble in school or in the community... then many private schools will not accept them as students.

    School vouchers are a shell game. They are a ponzi scheme that will not work, no matter how you spin it.