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PTA Assaulting School Choice in South Carolina

Promoted from the diaries by Jeff.

As a mother of four, the first of which entered public school last year, keeping up with my children’s education is extremely important to me.  I’ve heard the stories of children fearing the end of the world due to global warming and seen the history books that exclude any Republican or Conservative from the important events that have shaped our country.  My husband and I moved to a small town in South Carolina due in part to the notoriety of the schools.  I immediately joined the PTA, looking forward to communicating and working with other parents to help our children achieve the high standards to which we hold them accountable.

Unfortunately, as is so often the case, this PTA had an agenda and used its access to my email address to push that agenda.

Action needed
Please contact your House representative by 1 p.m., Tuesday, March 20, 2012 and urge him to vote against the tuition tax credit/voucher bill, House bill 4894 (see contact information below).

Background

Having completed the budget, the full House may take up the tuition tax credit/voucher bill this week. To see a longer summary of the bill from the March 14 Day At The Capitol handout, click here. Basically, the bill would
Provide a state income tax deduction of up to $4,000 for tuition (fees for attending the school and school?related transportation) paid by a parent or legal guardian for their child or ward to attend an independent school defined as a school, other than a public school.

Provide a state income tax deduction of up to $1,000 for tuition (fees for attending the school and school?related transportation) paid by a parent or legal guardian for their child or ward to attend a public school outside the child’s or ward’s resident school district.

Provide a state income tax deduction of up to $2,000 per home school student per year for instruction related expenditures.

Provide a dollar-for-dollar credit on state income tax, insurance premium taxes or bank license fees for contributions made to non-profit scholarship funding organizations that would provide “grants” to low-income students in public schools to attend an qualifying independent school.

After providing this fairly benign review of some of the specifics related to H.4894, the email turned into what amounted to a Democrat party spam email as the PTA laid out the position echoed by the South Carolina School Board Association (SCSBA) which apparently the school PTA is on board with.

Position statement

SCSBA opposes state or federally-mandated efforts to directly or indirectly subsidize elementary or secondary private, religious or home schools with public funds.


After giving contact info for representatives, the PTA helpfully  provides talking points for any parents who don’t have any idea why they should care about this.

Talking points

How can the General Assembly consider a bill that would result in a loss of $37 million in state revenues (just in the first year alone) when:

public schools have had their funding cut by more than $700 million;

the base student cost is presently at $1,880 per student but should be at $2,790 per student;

fully funding the BSC would require some $600 million

the state cannot meet existing obligation to adequately fund vital state agency and services, including law enforcement, healthcare, local government funds, etc.

Tuition tax credit/voucher programs are unaffordable, unaccountable to taxpayers and unproven.

The proposal is inconsistent with recent calls for comprehensive tax reforms, including the elimination of some sales and service tax exemptions by creating four more exemptions.

The proposal is inconsistent with conservative principles including the creation of a government entitlement program for private schoolers and home schoolers and grows government by adding new duties for the Department of Revenue and the Education Oversight Committee. Funding for public schools must be a top priority! Until we meet our financial commitment to public school students, there must be no consideration for a plan that would divert public tax dollars to private schools for tuition.

Even a sample message to send!

Sample message

Dear Representative :

I urge you to vote against the private school tuition tax credit/deduction/voucher bill, H.4894. The bill’s negative fiscal impact to the state’s general fund of $37 million is staggering when our state cannot meet its existing obligations to K-12 education and other vital state services, including local government funding. In addition to the significant funding cuts to education in recent years, the base student cost (BSC) under the Education Finance Act is presently at $1,880 per student when it should be $2,790 per student by state law. In fact, fully funding the BSC would require some $600 million.

Finally, lawmakers’ recent calls for the need to eliminate certain tax exemptions and loopholes and supported by businesses, citizens, and educators seems to contradict a proposal that would create yet another special-interest tax exemption through for paying tuition to a private school or for homeschooling with no accountability equivalent to the public schools. Another tax credit program would only add to the horribly unbalanced tax system already in existence in South Carolina.

In addition to emailing us, you can see the whole thing at their FaceBook page.

Immediately I wrote back to them, including the school principal and the local chairman of the Republican party, expecting quickly to receive an apology and a promise not to misuse the PTA email privileges again; or at the least a response from the Republican leader that he would look into the matter.  Apparently, however, the issue was so important that no one even bothered to email me back.  While it’s never happened to me before, I am left to assume that inserting one’s personal political agenda into official school emails is so commonplace that it is unworthy of discussion.  It was a big surprise for me personally.  Our area in South Carolina is very red and our schools are among the best in the state.  Surely, I thought, no one local would have a problem with people in other areas working to provide the best education for their children.  Once again, I sadly underestimated the selfishness of Democrats.

The School Choice Bill in my home state of South Carolina, H.4894, is the latest in a decade long battle to give parents control over the education of their children.  While the SC Board of Education chooses to use my tax money to advocate that each child needs $2,790 allotted to ensure a successful education, one needn’t look any further than right over our border to see that more money does not equate to better results.  In Charlotte, North Carolina inner city schools receive $12,000 per child.  With that money, the schools decided to spend $10 million to buy iPads for their classrooms; after spending $1.2 million to purchase iPads for administrators of course.  Money spent, despite the fact that even the NY Times had to admit that increased technology has not proven to increase test scores.  Additionally, the latest research out of Harvard University indicates what many conservatives have always known: a school that cultivates a culture focused on student achievement and high academic expectations (rather than small classroom size, meritless teacher pay & more money per student) yields a higher level of academic success.  Perhaps it’s time to bring back the red markers?

As for the lack of response from my local Republican party chairman, maybe he’s friends with Jenny Horne – the Republican representative who continuously crosses the aisle to stand in the way of education reform in South Carolina.

Once again, South Carolina Representative Jenny Horne (R-94) is standing in the way of statewide education reform. In a last ditch effort to block education reform bill H.4894, Representative Horne is attempting to delay a vote on the House floor until after the filing deadline for state house elections in order to prevent the vote from being an “election litmus test” for conservative legislators.

I’m not planning on taking my kids out their public school but I fully support the right of other parents to choose a different option; and they shouldn’t have to pay for my children in addition to theirs.  School Choice is something that people from both sides of the aisle should be able to agree on as it does nothing but promote competition for tax dollars and gives families much needed choices.  I’m fortunate that my kids attend a school that gets high marks, but many schools do not.  Let’s stop rewarding them and focus on what’s best for the children: having options in education.

Help end the public education monopoly.  Please contact Rep. Jenny Horne and tell her to stop delaying, stop playing political games and start thinking about the children of South Carolina.  If we can get this going in SC we can get the ball rolling in other states too.

CALL REP. JENNY HORNE – 803.212.6871. TELL HER TO DO THE RIGHT THING!!

Here are the reps that were targeted by the PTA email. Call these state reps to let them know they ARE doing the right thing!

Call State Rep. Ralph Norman at 803.212.6888

Call Deborah Long at 803.212.6874

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