School choice opponents in South Carolina say private school tuition program promotes racial segregation

Oct 26, 2013 by

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Public school apologists in South Carolina have hit a new low.

They’re arguing that a move to create more private school choice opportunities in their state is actually an attempt to bring back racial segregation in schools.

How sickening is that?

They obviously hope to gain the sympathies of black parents, whose children would actually be the ones to benefit the most from an expansion of school choice.

It’s not surprising that the public school establishment opposes a new state law, going into effect in January, which will offer tax credits to companies or individuals that donate to a fund that provides private school scholarships to special needs students.

And it’s not surprising that teachers and administrators oppose a bill currently before the state Senate that would expand the tax credits to those who help pay private school tuition for low-income students, and give tax deductions to parents who have private- or home-schooled students or who send their children to public schools outside their home districts.

The public school folks are defending their traditional turf and trying to salvage their own jobs. The teachers unions are trying to maintain as many public school teaching positions as possible, to maximize dues revenue.

None of that puts students first. It’s selfish and unbecoming of professional educators. But at least self-preservation is an understandable concept.

Trying to falsely inject racism into the debate is not understandable, particularly in a state with a history like South Carolina’s.

One man, the Rev. Joe Darby, testified before a Senate committee that private school choice options were a major factor in the segregation era, and eventually became part of the “Jim Crow” system of enforced segregation, according to Legal Professional News.

Patrick Hayes, an official with EdFirstSC, a teacher’s advocacy group, delivered the same message.

Perhaps both men are historically accurate, but they must realize how absurd their argument is today.

Black kids would benefit the most

The fact is that most private school voucher programs in states like Indiana, Wisconsin and Louisiana are designed to benefit black students. Many of those students are already stuck in highly segregated, underperforming school districts, and most of their parents lack the resources to send them to private schools.

That means mostly wealthy white kids get to attend the better schools.

Fully developed voucher programs give minority students the chance to escape neighborhood dropout factories and shop for high-quality private schools, just like wealthier students. If the goal is to give all students an equal chance at a quality education, voucher programs are one of the best ways to go.

The resulting competition for students is healthy for all schools. Traditional public schools losing significant numbers of students to private schools know they will have to improve to maintain their students and viability.

They have no motivation to improve when they have a trapped clientele of students, year after year, with no transfer options.

As Michael Acquilano, an attorney for the Catholic Diocese of Charleston, testified, many of the schools in the diocese network serve mostly black students.

“We want to offer these programs to kids who wouldn’t get it otherwise,” he said.

In case lawmakers don’t fall for the phony segregation argument, the public school crowd used its standard argument that school choice hurts public schools by stealing students and the state revenue that follows them.

“Whether you call it vouchers or whether you call it tax credits, you are still taking money out of the general fund,” said Jackie Hicks, president of the South Carolina Education Association, a teachers union.

Correct, Ms. Hicks. The state would be sacrificing tax revenue to allow a better education for poor children. How is that a problem?

Kathi Regalbuto, a former educator, called private school tax credits “a retreat from our collective responsibility to educate our children,” the news report said.

How so? The state would still be promoting the education of these children. The only difference is that private schools will be providing the service. Where is it written that government must operate the schools? And where has such a policy gotten us?

In the end state lawmakers will do whatever they want about the proposed legislation to expand the school choice tax credit program. We would hope, in a conservative state like South Carolina, the unions and public school lobby would have less influence over the final determination as they would in pro-union states like New York or Illinois.

Regardless of the outcome, school choice advocates continue to push forward. The Palmetto Family Forum, an organization founded by former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, has published and will be distributing a new catalog called “Empowering Students: Education Options for South Carolina Families,” according to

The catalog was created to help educate families about the various educational options available through charter schools, private schools and homeschooling, the news report said.

School choice opponents in South Carolina say private school tuition program promotes racial segregation – powered by Education Action Group Foundation, Inc..

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