It is increasingly clear that the Education Opportunity Act was shelved for next year so it can be a political weapon against Republican legislative candidates in the 2010 primaries. An example of how that situation is going to play out was given by the Voice for School Choice blog recently. VSC lamented about the low literacy rates in Charleston public schools, but offered a glimmer of hope that would be reversed with the targeted private school tuition tax credits offered in Education Opportunity Act. (Chances are that those folks and their comrades would tell you the heat and humidity next summer in Charleston will not be as bad if the Education Opportunity Act passes.)
Never before in the history of South Carolina has a political faction been so hell bent on attacking public education and those who work within it. While there are reforms needed, and there is the occasional egotistical teacher or administrator who does not live in the real world, by and large the people who work in public education are not stupid, evil people striving to corrupt children. Instead, they work hard at their jobs, raise their families, are active in their churches and charities, and are good neighbors and friends, even to those who rail against their profession. Only in the well paid for climate created by the Sanford/Rich movement do smart people who chose to forego big money and use their talent to teach children get caste as corrupt, evil, incompetent, etc.
Such contempt by the Sanford/Rich crowd goes beyond typical party or conservative versus liberal politics. Take Governor Sarah Palin for example, she accepted the education money for Alaska in the federal stimulus but declined the money on energy issues, because she correctly saw the strings attached to such money requiring states and localities to comply to federal building codes as amended by the Obama Administration as a violation of states ‘ rights. I suppose Sanford sees Palin as a RINO. It is interesting that Sanford had no problem taking that portion of the stimulus money with those strings attached. It was the public education money that made Sanford lawyer up and hit the talk shows. Burdening South Carolina with federal building codes was not on his mind.
Maybe Mark Sanford really believes that public schools are evil places that no child should be exposed to. I tried to convince my parents of that in the first grade. Of course, I felt the same way about private schools as well at the time. Like a child throwing a fit, Sanford and his well paid cohorts are lashing out over not getting their way.
The hard truth is we are stuck with paying for those students who have no paid voice in the tuition tax credit debate. We all live in the same place. While parents have responsibility, eventually, if public education opportunities and chances are not offered to the least among us, we end up paying more in the long run. No tax credit or voucher can fix that. If a big government program, like the Educational Opportunity Act, stepped in and even did what it promised, giving every parent a chance to pull their kids from “failing” public schools, all that would be left is students who would fail at a higher rate. So be it, some will say. Well, unfortunately, that big government program would lead to more big government spending, as we the people would have to pay more for social programs, law enforcement and jails to deal with those failing students as they become failed adults.
If corporations followed the measures suggested in the Education Opportunity Act and donated to private school scholarship funds to avoid paying general state taxes, then the state would be faced with devastated public schools in bad areas producing social costs and less revenue to deal with those social costs. Such is typically the case when someone advocates a big government program that seems to be a panacea for all the problems of a major issue like education. As with other such programs over the years, big money clouds the thinking of so many.
It is amazing how being conservative now in South Carolina is to be for a big government give away and for less fiscal responsibility. It is the situation we get when politicians stop thinking for themselves and instead strike a balancing act between what their donors want and what their highly paid handlers tell them sounds good. The result is in South Carolina, the constant attack on public education, with no real solutions offered, just the snake oil, I mean, the Education Opportunity Act. Like the folks who buy the snake oil to heal an ailment, we the taxpayers will eventually have to pay for the real cure after we have paid the snake oil salesman.