Saturday, March 12, 2011

421 Charleston school jobs in jeopardy, but lawmakers consider vouchers

Where's the logic?

Lawmakers say there's not enough money in the budget to keep all of South Carolina's educators on the job -- including the 421 school employees in Charleston, waiting to hear if their jobs will be cut -- yet they're considering, again, a foolish plan to divert public funds from public schools to pay for private school vouchers.

The news from Charleston:

The school board decided last week not to issue contracts to four groups of educators until it determines the classroom positions that it has available. Those affected include first-year teachers, retired teachers, those considered Visiting International Faculty, and those who haven't taught in Charleston for the entire school year. They did exempt some teachers in those groups, such as those working in rural areas or hard-to-fill positions, such as math, science, foreign language or special education.

"We did this as a way of preserving our options," said school board Chairman Chris Fraser.

School leaders are facing a projected $28 million shortfall for next school year, and they've made an estimated $11 million in cuts, such as out- sourcing custodial services, eliminating administrative staff, and reducing school-based positions, such as media specialists, teaching assistants, secretaries, and clerks.

The 421 educators affected by the decision have less contract rights than the rest of the teaching corps, so this move gives the district more flexibility for placing staff should it need to reduce its teaching force because of budget cuts, Fraser said.

And the wisdom of South Carolina's electeds:

South Carolina legislators are again considering a bill to help parents send their children to private schools.

The measure would allow parents to claim a tax credit for paying private school tuition. Parents who homeschool their children could take a tax credit for the cost of education materials.

Initially, parents who already send their children to private school could not claim a credit.

Poor parents who can't afford to pay tuition upfront could seek a scholarship. The business or person donating money toward those scholarships could get a tax credit.

Various versions of the idea have died repeatedly since 2004.

What is it that Einstein supposedly said about defining insanity?

Here's the logic: If the goal of lawmakers is to strangle public education to the point that it could not possibly meet the needs of South Carolina's schoolchildren, then the proposal under consideration by South Carolina lawmakers makes perfect sense. In such a world, parents would, sooner or later, completely lose faith in public education and vacate public schools; those with means to pay for private schools (and the benefit of state subsidy, to boot!) would do so, leaving poorer families without any viable options to help their children escape poverty.

What of those poorer children, then? Well, South Carolina has a history of providing opportunities of a different sort for them.

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