Originally created 05/25/04

Back charter schools

Charter schools have not made much headway in South Carolina because local school districts see them as a nuisance or, even worse, as competition. The result is that very few charter schools have gotten a green light from the local districts.

So to overcome that obstacle, there's movement in the legislature to create a statewide school district that could override local school districts and, presumably, be more charter-school friendly. The proposal already has passed the full House and the Senate Education Committee, and awaits for a full Senate vote.

Even so, the bill is facing an uphill battle because two influential Democrats sitting on the education panel voted against it – Kay Patterson of Columbia and Ralph Anderson of Greenville.

Charter schools are independent public schools designed and operated by educators, parents, and educational entrepreneurs. As long as they get good academic results, they are allowed to experiment with different teaching techniques and operate outside the bureaucratic restraints of regular public schools.

Charter school opponents don't like taking money from traditional public schools to fund the charters. Under the current bill, the charter school would get the local school district's share of state and federal money for each student it en-rolled.

The forces aligned against charter schools are basically proponents of the status quo – their only answer to public school problems is to give them more money. They oppose anything that smacks of innovation, challenges or competition. They don't regard students as customers, but as serfs. They've got them locked into a slave system of education from which few of them can escape.

Think about it. Americans have choice in about every area of their life except public schools, unless they're wealthy enough to send their kids to private schools.

They have choice in the homes, groceries and clothes they buy; the phone services they subscribe to; the programs they watch; in fact, being an American is largely about making choices.

But they have almost no choice in schools. Charter schools are a baby step in the direction of choice – at least a choice of putting kids in a different, experimental teaching environment to see if they'll learn better.As long as local districts stand in the way of charter schools, creating a statewide school district could prove to be a healthy antidote. South Carolinians concerned about their children's education should urge the Senate to move favorably on the charter school bill.


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