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Thursday, March 29, 2012

SC House Bill 4894

The South Carolina House just passed out a bill that would give tax deductions to parents who opt out of public schools. Opponents and proponents suggest this is the first step in implementing a voucher system in SC. I have not posted on this before for several reasons. First, many of our local legislators have made up their mind on this issue. This will put money into their pockets because they either have children in private school or are accepting out of state money for their campaigns. Second, school boards are charged with providing for all children, what we would want for our own - and we will continue to do that, regardless.

I've heard all kinds of arguments that parents need and want "choice". Let's not debate this, and for arguments sake, say it is true. Will this bill provide choice for all parents in SC? It certainly will for parents above a certain economic level who have access to private schools. With the poverty level of South Carolina's students about 55%, I'd say there will be a lot of families that will not have a choice. Is this good for SC? Was segregation good for SC?  If we are going to provide choice in education, what about police and fire protection? Should my tax dollars go for a road/building somewhere in the state that I will never use? What if I don't have children in school, should my tax dollars be used for schools? Let's define the purpose for government in the first place!

Public education proponents should make this an education issue - one for all children - and those who voted for the bill should explain how they are going to provide the same education choice for all children.

Walter Brown has written a summary of the events yesterday (below). Representative Doug Brannon, mentioned in his summary, is from Landrum. Those of you from the upstate may remember his parent's restaurant near the state line, Brannon's. Doug proposed many thoughtful amendments that would have required accountability - all were first shouted down and then voted down.

Thanks to all who contacted members of the County Delegation concerning Bill 4894 (Tax Deduction). This, as was pointed out on the floor of the House today, is the first step in implementing a full voucher system for private schools. It was also pointed out that it will eventual lead to elitist schools versus public schools by Representative Brown (no kin) of Fairfield County. Representative Brown also reminded them that their votes had been sold to Howard Rich out of New York. There were many amendments offered by Representative Doug Brannon and others to place accountability on private schools in line with those imposed on public education. I am not sure how he maintained his composure as one amendment after the other was tabled. In fact he was asked at one time to withdraw his further amendments since they would be tabled which he refused to do. As the various members spoke against the bill it sounded like there was a party going on in the House as the Speaker continually asked for order so the speaker could be heard. It was very apparent that the supporters of the bill had no intention of changing their minds and ignored first one speaker after the next. The final vote on the second reading of the bill for passage was 65 to 49.

John King was not in attendance today and is the only member of our delegation not to vote for passage. With the exception of a couple of amendments that were tabled our delegation voted to table all others. Their votes speak clearly on their support of funding private education. They may speak of school choice as being behind their votes but I personally see that as an excuse not a reason or representative of the wishes of their constituents.

Walter Brown

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