The Kids Will Have to Wait
There's never a shortage of politicians who say they make the decisions "for the kids," but when it comes to putting the interests of students over their own ambitions, the number shrinks dramatically. That certainly seems to be the case when it comes to passing - or even openly debating - school choice legislation in South Carolina.
After months of self-congratulatory discussions and time wasted on pandering resolutions, members of the SC Senate decided that they didn't have enough time to discuss school choice bill, H. 4894. That's right. Politicians who spent 6 hours in one day listening to speeches lauding retiring state senators and their staff couldn't find the time to debate school choice. This issue has dominated editorial pages, been the subject of rallies, and been a widely-debated reform measure. If that isn't enough to merit debate from the people elected to pass education laws in South Carolina, then what is?
The real story isn't a lack of time, it was a calculated move from elected officials like Senators John Courson, Larry Martin and Wes Hayes who were afraid they would have to vote on the issue out in the open. Every one of these lawmakers has been contacted by constituents who urged them to support school choice. Every one. It's sad that these opposing senators chose to reward residents in their districts (who actually made the effort to engage in government) by denying them the basic respect of having their wishes dealt with on the Senate floor. Consistent efforts by Senator Larry Grooms (Berkeley), Senator Kevin Bryant (Anderson) and Senator Lee Bright (Spartanburg) to bring the bill to an open vote were routinely shot down.
Sorry, low-income and special needs students, your education struggles are less important to politicians than the ability to avoid being honest with voters. Institutional interests took a very clear precedent over the needs of children.
Senator Larry Grooms (Berkeley) made sure to point that out. Senator Grooms has been incredibly focused on giving parents real educational options, and deserves special commendation for his heartfelt, and policy-focused call for the senate to take up the issue. These were Senator Grooms' final words before the session ended.
"The South Carolina General Assembly never misses the opportunity to give out money to a group with a catchy idea or a good lobbyist. The General Assembly routinely and adamantly refuses to allow parents to keep their own money to help their own children. That insult...sometimes just adds to injury."