Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cobb-Hunter raises equal-standards argument in voucher bill

Although House Ways and Means Chairman Brian White told WJBF yesterday that he has enough votes to pass his $37 million voucher-and-tax-deduction bill from the House, Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter has raised concerns about using public dollars without public accountability.

At the committee meeting, State Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, said the plan also doesn't hold private schools to the same standards that public schools are required to meet. She asked supporters, "Why are we still shifting public dollars to private schools but we don't want private schools to be judged by the same criteria?"

Apparently, Cobb-Hunter's question in the committee meeting wasn't answered; no answer was reported by WJBF.

Cobb-Hunter wasn't alone in raising concerns about the bill:

Jackie Hicks, state president of the South Carolina Education Association, says, "We want reforms. Families of children want reforms. So why not focus on reforms instead of taking money and giving it to private schools? Because when you talk about giving each student a $4,000 voucher, then you are taking that money out of the public school system."

Again, WJBF offers no data to respond to Hicks's concern.

One has to imagine that Cobb-Hunter's question has an answer, and that Hicks's concern has a response. Perhaps our media are exhausted of the debate and are waiting for new news to report. Look: Squirrel!

Meantime, WJBF stopped at Covenant Classical Christian School and found two private-school parents, including one who teaches at the school, who are thrilled to get paid for their choice to send their children to private schools.

"Mine! Mine! Mine! All mine! You can't have any!" the wealthy parents said, clutching at their publicly-funded vouchers and racing past the long line of poor peoples' children holding outdated textbooks and broken pencils. "My children are more important than your children! And give me my tax deduction!"

No, I'm kidding. That last bit in italics didn't really happen. The jury will strike that testimony from the record. Here's what WJBF really reported from the two parents who love the voucher bill.

Edye Moran has two sons at Covenant Classical Christian School in Columbia and says families make a lot of sacrifices to send their children to private school. She's happy to hear about the bill. "We believe that, as citizens who pay taxes, we should have the ability to have a choice like this," she says.

Yes, and hundreds of thousands of other parents who also pay taxes wish they had the option of sending their children to traditional public schools whose programs, services, faculty needs and classroom resources are fully-funded; but we live in South Carolina, and South Carolina's lawmakers don't make that choice available to them.

Deborah Bian-Lingle, a mother of three daughters educated in a private school, says, "It's not going to hurt the taxpayer. What it's going to do is assist parents to be able to place their children in the school of their choice."

In addition to teaching French at the private academy whose parents stand to collect huge benefits from the voucher bill, Bian-Lingle is a Richland County GOP precinct officer.

Indeed, it doesn't hurt our taxpayers, except that a smaller General Fund means fewer resources for public education AND every other public service that's funded by the General Fund, which means that local counties and municipalities may have to raise local property taxes to cover the costs of local programs and services; and higher local property taxes will land on the backs of individual property owners, because large corporations don't have to pay property taxes in many case, thanks to the incentive package crafted by lawmakers to persuade those corporations to operate here.

So I guess the voucher bill will hurt taxpayers in the long run, after all. Hmm. It's strange how things look different when you consider the long-term view and others' perspectives.

The State offered a little more detail of the committee debate, but not much more.

The committee approved an amendment requiring that benefiting private schools post online results of students' standardized tests.

Republicans refused attempts to require they use the same standardized tests as public schools.

That's the only way to get a true performance comparison, said Rep. Michael Anthony, D-Union.

Why wouldn't private academies want to use the same standardized tests as traditional public schools, if we're going to be funding private education at those schools? Is there something to hide?

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