Thursday, July 14, 2011

What vetoes? Haley threatens focus on education next year

Classroom teachers will recognize this behavior: Student ignores effective instruction for a semester, performs poorly on occasional tests and blows off the final exam entirely, earning a failing grade. When the class resumes for the second semester, the student pretends nothing was wrong, that despite the albatross of a failing grade weighing down her prospects, she will continue last semester's poor study habits, inattentiveness in class and general disregard for instruction, fully expecting to complete the course with an A.

Governor Nikki Haley took a thumping at the hands of the legislature late last month, after wielding her veto pen without necessary prudence and expecting her subordinates in the chambers to fall in line.

Now, without having addressed fully the deeper meanings of those events, and apparently pretending they never occurred -- which means no learning took place -- Her Excellency has announced she "will use her first executive budget in January to take a “back-to-basics” approach to a range of issues vital to the long-term future of the state."

Back to basics, she says. This can't be good news for South Carolina's public schoolchildren.

“You will see me focus on things like law enforcement, like infrastructure, like education, like mental health and rehabilitation,” Haley said Monday in Columbia. “Those are the things we really need to focus on so that we can start to get South Carolina really moving again.”

Indeed, South Carolina's public schoolchildren are on next year's menu.

But where? The appetizer? The main course? The dessert?

When it comes to issues such as education, infrastructure and law enforcement, Haley said too much attention is focused on how much money is spent, rather than how the money is spent.

Haley said her focus will be to move state education “in the right direction.” That means, among other things, changing the funding formula, she said.

It's the main course. Haley presumably intends to strike directly at the heart of South Carolina's public school system, aiming squarely at the Education Finance Act.

The mother of two children attending public schools in Lexington County, Haley, responding to a question about school vouchers, said she has “always been a strong proponent of options for parents” in schools.

There we find the proof that Haley has learned none of the lessons of the past decade in South Carolina politics and education policy. How many times have lawmakers defeated voucher legislation since Haley's mentor, former Governor Mark Sanford, first dragged them out of Libertarian think tanks and into our public discourse in 2003? Five? Six? Seven? How many public hearings have been held on the topic? How many polls have been taken? How many rallies have dragged little home-schooled children and their parents to the State House steps for the airing of cathartic declamations and demands for public subsidies of private choices?

The lessons taught time after time, the opinions voiced by our collective consciousness in poll after poll, the will of lawmakers expressed in vote after vote, are so crystal clear: Parents want high-quality public schools for their children in their communities, wherever they live. Parents in every city and town, crossroad and glade want the same access to opportunities for their children as exist for the children of other parents, elsewhere, across our happy land. When beaten about the head and neck with messages of public schools' inadequacies, parents have not yielded and said, Yes, close the schools and give me a voucher to Heathwood Hall. Rather, parents have rejected those messages and said to state leaders, Fix the problems, repair the schools, treat my child as you would treat your own, and let public funds serve the public good.

But Haley learned none of these lessons, read none of the polls, apparently knows nothing of all those previous votes. Next year, she declares, she will push our system of public education in right direction, using "vouchers" as her compass.

One grows weary.

In the same article, buried well beneath the lead, Haley announces to the citizens of South Carolina that they have no governor to focus on state interests. Rather, they have a governor focused on matters of national import. This, of course, does nothing to help the moms and dads and little children of South Carolina's communities. Perhaps we were fooled into thinking we'd elected a governor.

First, Haley returns to the horse she hobbled and bled out months ago, to administer additional lashes.

As she has in the past, Haley roundly criticized the National Labor Relations Board for its suit against Boeing for locating a 787 Dreamliner plant in South Carolina rather than Washington state, citing anti-union motivation.

Haley has been out front in some national media outlets defending Boeing’s decision, and deriding the Obama administration for not speaking out against it.

“I am not gonna stand by and allow any of our companies to be bullied, especially by unions,” Haley said to a round of applause by the Rotarians.

The Rotarians love a show.

What might the Rotarians have done if South Carolina's governor had declared, "I am not gonna stand by and allow any of our public schoolchildren to be bullied, especially by their governor"? Might the applause have rocked the walls?

Or this: "I am not gonna stand by and allow any of South Carolina's workers to be bullied, especially by their elected leaders"?

Or perhaps this: "I am not gonna stand by and allow any of our citizens' rights and freedoms to curbed or dictated by out-of-state corporate interests through ideologically-motivated campaign contributions, especially by those who supported and continue to support my political aspirations"? Surely the roof would spontaneously combust.

Then comes the abdication of any responsibility for what occurs, or doesn't occur, to promote the general welfare of our own friends and neighbors who pay taxes in South Carolina:

“Being a governor is no longer about leading on state issues,” Haley said. “What I’ve noticed is we have to deal with a lot of federal issues, and that’s OK.” Haley has taken criticism for inking a book deal and catering toward national media exposure, perhaps harboring national political ambitions.

Translation: We have no governor. We are materially supporting, instead, a candidate-in-waiting for federal appointment or election.

And another term of office is wasted, while our children want for leaders.

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