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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

School choice revived

Posted on Wed, Dec. 05, 2007

By BILL ROBINSON
brobinson@thestate.com
State schools chief Jim Rex told a gathering of educators from across the
state today that he has a new version of public school choice that he hopes
the 2008 Legislature will embrace because "we know parents want it."

Rex's plan is similar to one Gov. Mark Sanford vetoed earlier this year. But
this plan would not require public schools to accept students from
neighboring districts. That was a deal-breaker for some lawmakers earlier
this year.

One of the opponents was Rep. Ted Pitts, R-Lexington, who today stood with
Rex today to announce he would be a chief sponsor of pre-filed legislation
that will sanction public school choice across the state.

Back in June, when the Legislature took up Sanford's vetoes, Pitts argued
passionately to reject the school choice law that had passed earlier in the
session. The House upheld the veto, in part because opponents expressed
skepticism that well-funded, highly rated districts would take in students
and pass along the cost of educating them to taxpayers.

Pitts said he can support the scaled-back version of Rex's proposal because
it does not contain any provisions that could be labeled an "unfunded
mandate."

The proposed legislation calls for every school district to form a "public
school choice committee" that would be responsible for developing "at least
one cross-district choice within three years" of the law taking effect.

The panel would present its ideas to the local school board, which in turn
would forward choice program proposals to Rex's agency, the state Department
of Education.

Pitts said the reason he is supporting the new approach is that it contains
no requirements that districts accept students from other school systems.

It also contains language, Pitts said, that would require the state to
provide money to pay for transportation of students who opt to leave their
neighborhood public school for one in another community. Pitts said he could
not project how much that provision might cost.

Rex made the announcement of the new school choice bill - and Pitts'
decision to be its sponsor - at the start of a two-day conference in
Columbia where 200-plus educators are meeting to hear experts talk about
school choice strategies that have worked and failed around the nation.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

"It also contains language, Pitts said, that would require the state to provide money to pay for transportation of students who opt to leave their neighborhood public school for one in another community." "Neighborhood public School"???!! What is he talking about? There is no such thing as a neighbhorhood public school. At least not in the RH School District. Perhaps Mr. Pitts should get out of the State House and start visiting local school districts where kids are bussed across town to acheive balance. Parents need REAL SCHOOL CHOICE. Not some attempt from Mr. Rex or the General Assembly to "look like" they are giving parents "choice". I guess they think parents are stupid.

jimvining said...

Thanks for sharing your comment.

Jim

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