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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Stop playing games

Stop playing games and help all of our students
The Greenville News

Imagine you were a star quarterback in college. You return to your hometown and the community leaders ask you to coach the local football team, insisting on one condition — that you coach all the children in the community, not just the good players or the children whose parents will be involved with the team. Your mission will be
to ensure that all the children get to participate and become better players. You want to give back to your community so you
accept the job.

The community leaders only promise funding sufficient for an adequate, rather than a solid, program. Yet, due to budget constraints they actually provide just two- thirds of the limited funding they promised. They also require lots of testing that is well intentioned, but it means your players receive materially less practice time than
those on the privately-funded teams.

Your team has a solid season, and you accomplish the community’s goal of coaching all the children in the community. The vast majority of your players show significant improvement, even those who don’t receive support from their parents or practice at home.

The community leaders, however, claim that you failed as a coach because you did not win the championship. You remind them your mission was to coach a team open to all community children, not to
recruit an exclusive set of players with which to compete against the privately funded teams which select the players they want. Nevertheless, you say that you could do even better with the full funding the community leaders had promised, and perhaps a little more time to coach your players rather than test them.

To your disappointment, they refuse and offer community money to the parents of those children who already play on the private, exclusive teams. The community leaders claim they are doing this to make you try harder.

The community leaders also claim they are not actually giving community money to the private team parents, they are merely
telling these parents not to pay their full share to support community programs. You know, of course, that the result would be the same if the private team parents paid their full share and the community leaders returned a portion of it back to them. You wonder if the community leaders are fooling anyone with this argument.

The community leaders also offer a small amount of community money to the parents of any children who leave the community team to join a private team, claiming they are helping these children escape your
failing team. You ask why, if they believe the team is failing, would they only help a few of the children escape? Shouldn’t they help all the children? Shouldn’t they provide at least a minimally adequate amount of funding to the community team before funneling community funds to the private teams?

  • It is universally recognized that education drives economic prosperity. Improving public education will increase the community’s per capita income, decrease unemployment, reduce incarceration rates, decrease poverty, lower the community’s health care expenses, and result in a long- term reduction in our taxes.
  • Our Legislature has funded the minimum amount required by the Education Finance Act in only eight of the law’s 36 years and in only three of the last 10 years. For the 2011-12 school year, our Legislature provided only two-thirds of the amount required by statute.
  • Our Legislature proposes a tuition tax credit or school voucher bill almost every year. These bills are promoted with clever phrases such as the current “school choice” bill, but they do nothing to help improve our public schools. Instead, they will contribute to the state’s inability, or unwillingness, to fully fund our public schools, to the detriment of the entire community.
  • These proposals would use state tax dollars to pay for student enrollment in a private school, reducing state revenue by millions of dollars annually. The 2012 proposal is estimated to reduce state revenue by $36.7 million in its first year. The cost to taxpayers would increase in subsequent years. By far most of the benefit from this legislation would go to families with children already attending private schools.
  • This bill would in essence be a taxpayer funded bail-out of parents who have already chosen to send their children to private schools.
  • Please ask your legislator to oppose these bills, to increase funding to our public schools, and to focus on helping allof our community’s children.

Neil Grayson is a Greenville lawyer and board member of Public Education Partners and the South Carolina Student Loan Corporation. Write to him at .

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