Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Courson predicts clock will block voucher bill

Reporter Sarita Chourey of the Morris News Service posted this afternoon a news item that quotes Senate President Pro Tem John Courson predicting a stall in the progress of this year's House voucher bill.

South Carolina Senate President Pro Tempore John Courson predicts the school-choice bill passed by the House in March will run out of time this year.

At the end of March, the S.C. House approved H. 4894, which would give income tax deductions to parents of children who are home schooled or attend private school, as well as make low-income and disabled students eligible for partial scholarships to attend other schools.

"The problem with any legislation that comes over from the House at this late date (is) we've got the appropriations bill," said Courson, a Columbia Republican, who grew up in Augusta.

"By the time we complete that, we'll be basically almost 90 percent through the legislative session. So any bill that has a lot of controversy attached to it, I think will be very difficult to get out of the Senate this year."

I'm not familiar with the Morris News Service, and its article strangely attempts to place Courson among the Aiken County legislative delegation, but the content representing Courson's observations seems sound.

The regular legislative session is scheduled to end June 7. Senate rules allow a single senator to stall a bill, which could further hinder the school-choice bill's passage.

"I think it needs to be thoroughly vetted, and I would intend to do that," said Courson.

Most of the votes against the bill came from House Democrats, including Rep. Bill Clyburn of Aiken.

Clyburn said his chief objection to the bill, which the House passed 65-49, was that it would siphon away $37 million from the state.

"Our constitution guarantees an education for our boys and girls," he said. "And there are so many complaints coming from the public school system ... about the (funding) shortage for basic student costs, and we're still not where we ought to be. And yet we'd take away $37 million."

But his delegation colleague, Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, celebrated the bill's passage in an email newsletter. "Education is not a one-size-fits-all proposition; each child is educationally unique in how they learn," wrote Taylor. "In my view, this is not a battle between 'Choice' versus public education as opponents try to frame the argument; both have their place and both need support."

Well, lucky for everyone, there appears to be a real school choice bill making its way through the Senate today, so those in favor of school choice needn't lose heart.

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