School choice legislation a priority for SC Senate, parents and educators weigh pros and cons
A recent poll from SC Policy Council finds 60% of voters support school choice legislation. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t questions: Who are the recipients, does this reduce funding for public schools and is it really a good choice?
GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Giving parents the choice to place their child in the best-suited educational setting, that’s one of the goals of legislation being debated in the SC State Senate. It’s called the Educational Scholarship Trust Fund or school voucher program.
A recent poll from the South Carolina Policy Council finds 60% of voters support school choice legislation. By a two to one margin. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of questions: Who are the recipients, does this reduce funding for public schools and is it really a good choice?
Luke Tiba knows a lot about budgeting for the most highly effective learning environment for his kids.
“When you’re talking about private (school), it’s really a huge sacrifice for families. But it’s worth it,” Tiba said. “First, the education, and second, I look at the alumni and networking opportunities because we all know in today’s world it’s also about who you know. And how to build connections.”
Factors the Spartanburg father weighs which is why he sends four out of his six children to private schools and college.
“You have to make sacrifices, you have to budget, you have to plan, you have to squeeze, in order to make it happen,” Tiba said. “But it’s based on the future and knowing that you know it’ll be worth it.”
And he supports the SC Senate’s push for the Educational Scholarship Trust Fund.
“It’s a better way. Definitely,” he said.
The legislation would give lower income students with Medicaid eligibility, and students in an individualized education program or IEP, the opportunity to attend private school. Parents would be given $6,000 a year, and the bill also covers qualifying expenses like transportation and exams.
The annual number of students varies by year if passed. By school year 2026-27, 15,000 students will receive scholarships. Data from the SC Policy Council suggests the legislation achieves “critical goals” but not everyone agrees.
“(I’m concerned about) the affordability piece, the accessibility piece and then the accountability piece which is a really big one, not just for myself, but I think most educators in the public school system,” said Deion Jamison, SC Teacher of the Year 2023.
Jamison worries about tax dollars being siphoned from public and charter districts, and if parents have the finances to cover the unseen costs of private school attendance. Additionally, discrimination against students on the basis of academic aptitude and identity status.
“(Public schools) accept all students, wherever they come from and wherever there starting point is and we meet them where they are,” Jamison said. “And so (it’s important to) ensure that whatever legislation that comes out of this is closely matching and identical to what we require of our public schools, because essentially there’s essentially public dollars going into a private entity.”
It’s also important to mention that the bill currently with the senate also includes an eligibility and review period. Every five years, beginning in 2027, recommendations would be made to improve how the program works.
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