Sunday, March 27, 2011

School board opposes tuition tax credits; Thomas 'open-minded'

Greenville, despite its location in the most conservative part of the state, sometimes surprises people with a progressive declaration here and there. It did so again last week, as its school board made clear its opposition to the tuition tax credit plan that Governor Mark Sanford cooked up and Governor Nikki Haley has reheated.

Reporter Ron Barnett explains in the Greenville News:

The Greenville County School Board fired off a letter to local legislators Tuesday urging them to oppose a bill that would provide tax credits to parents who send their children to private schools.

The letter the board wrote to the county's legislative delegation calls Senate bill 414 “another tax break championed by a well-funded, out-of-state special interest group.”

“In fact, if passed, this legislation may well decrease opportunities for our students as funding is diverted from the state's General Fund into the pockets of a few.”

The bill, which has been referred to the Senate Education Committee, would draw money from the general fund rather than from education funds, but school board members said it would have the effect of taking money from schools, which already have suffered more than $750 million in cuts in state funds over the past three years.

“As school districts across the state lay off teachers, reduce class offerings, discontinue innovative programs and rely on parents to provide basic supplies, it is simply irresponsible to consider legislation which further erodes resources for our public school students and threatens the other core services of our state,” the letter says.

That just about sums it up, doesn't it?

The plan benefits only a few, particularly those who don't need the benefit. It harms the vast majority, who can ill afford the harm. It's couched as a tax break, at a time when South Carolina has already cut its public service budgets to the bone. And it's being pushed by ideologues from outside our border.

Logic like that can't go ignored, right?

Not so fast. We're in South Carolina. Logic is not feared in these parts. Just ask Sen. David Thomas, who co-sponsored the bill.

State Sen. David Thomas, one of the sponsors of the bill, said the bill isn't likely to pass as written because of the budget situation.

He favors a scaled-down version that would target impoverished school districts in a pilot program.

“I'm open-minded and have been,” the Fountain Inn Republican said. “There seems to be a lack of open-mindedness on all sides on this.”

I think that the operative definition of open-mindedness, in this instance, seems to be that when a majority of citizens oppose an idea, for various reasons, that's no reason to believe that the majority of citizens oppose the idea. It could still be adopted, if a majority of lawmakers ignore the stated will of voters and pass it anyway.

I'm open-minded, too: I see that elections have consequences, and this is one.

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