Private Schools More Accessible Than Establishment Wants to Admit
Did you know that approximtely 25% of the 54,000 students enrolled in private schools across the state are considered "low income"? That number stands in stark contrast to the constant harping from school choice opponents about private schools remaining completely incaccessible to low-income families, even if school choice were to be enacted.
The statement that school choice won't - or can't - help poor students enroll in private school is based in an ignorance (intentional or otherwise) of 1.) The costs of private school education in South Carolina, and 2.) The functionality of school choice for low-income families in other states. Here are a few quick facts to consider.
1.) The cost of private school education: Despite the preference of the school choice detractors to portray private schools as uber-costly and elitist, actual data shows most private schools to be quite accessible. According to a 300 - school survey of private schools across the Palmetto State, the median cost of private school tuition is about $4,400. That's a figure lower than you will ever hear the education establishment reference, and one that suddenly makes a tax-credit funded scholarships sound very, very substantial. House Bill 4894 proposes scholarships for low-income children of up to $5,000, or 75% of tuition, whichever is less. Certainly this help must sound desirable to the many low-income families who already manage to take advantage of private school education in South Carolina.
2.) School choice is helping low-income families in other states: If school choice were truly incapable of helping low-income families, then programs in other states would demonstrate that. Instead, school choice programs that target low-income families in states like Florida, Arizona, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia have been highly popular. The reasons why should be very aparent. Parents like to be able to choose their child's school, and obviously the tax-credit funded scholarships provided by these states have been enough to achieve that. From 2010-2012, school choice programs in Florida alone experienced a 30% increase in participation. Growth that rapid doesn't happen if a program doesn't work. Why would similar programs to H. 4894 work successfully in other states, but not meet the needs of the same people in South Carolina?
The size of tuition scholarships in the legislation under consideration by the State Senate ( H.4894) is absolutely enough to help low income families afford meaningful school choice options. Low-income parents have time and again made it very clear that they would benefit from school choice. We're even willing to bet that most members of the Senate have heard from low-income members of their constituency who said as much. Now the question remains; will senators actually consider what parents themselves are saying they want? Or will an issue that has - on two occasions - drawn thousands and thousands of parents to the Statehouse for a rally be procedurally killed by politicians who would prefer not to deal with school choice out in the open?
Please take a few minutes to write your state senator at www.mysclegislator.com, and let him know that you want school choice to have a fair hearing on the Senate floor. Your message can have a huge impact!