March 29, 2005

Perpetuating More of the Same

[The following is from an article written by Gary West, a Greenwood school teacher and author. He is one of the best writers in our state on issues pertaining to education. Below is just a sampling of Gary's work - but I think you'll agree, in just one example, he dismantles any myth that the Governor's voucher plan would help low income families. Full text, including research and endnotes at: Full Article]

Allendale As a Good Example

Two months after he cited them for being bad, Governor Mark Sanford visited Allendale County Schools. At least one version of the Governor’s “Put Parents in Charge Act” would permit students in those schools to attend the private school of their choice, using tax credits to their parents to pay for the private school tuition.

Within 60 miles of the center of the town of Allendale, there are nine private schools. The closest is Patrick Henry Academy in Estill – about 20 miles from Allendale. Andrew Jackson Academy is about 26 miles away in Bamberg. Jefferson Davis Academy is about 27 miles away in Blackville. There are others in Orangeburg (45 miles), Ridgeland (46 miles), Walterboro (52 miles), and Aiken (54 miles).

Allendale County has a median household income of $20,898, which is the lowest of the state’s 46 counties. The average Allendale County taxpayer’s family with two school-aged children pays no state income tax – with or without a tuition tax credit under the “Put Parents in Charge Act.” The state tax codes indicate the average Allendale County family does not make enough money to survive and pay taxes.

Yet, the “Put Parents in Charge Act” assumes that these families would be able to pay for tuition and travel to one of the “nearby” private schools using a tuition tax credit that will not cover the entire cost of private school attendance.

And, even if the money thing could be worked out, the nine private schools within 60 miles of Allendale have admission requirements that would exclude virtually all of the Allendale students. And most of the nine academies within 60 miles of Allendale have limited space for additional students – even if tuition, travel, and admission standards could be worked out.

The fact remains that private school opportunities are extremely limited for students in Allendale County.

The same is true in every other area of the state where the Governor and his political action group (South Carolinians for Responsible Government) contend that poor students can benefit from the “Put Parents in Charge Act.” Like the name of the Act itself, the idea sounds good. In reality, those opportunities simply will not exist.

Current private school students will be the only students from Allendale County – or anywhere else in the state – who will benefit from the tuition tax credits generated by the “Put Parents in Charge Act.” Those are the students whose families can already meet the admission requirements and who can afford to pay the tuition, the travel, and the additional costs of participating in private school activities.

Allendale County is a prime example why the “Put Parents in Charge Act” will not do what the Governor says it will do. In fact, Allendale County was an example of what the “Put Parents in Charge Act” will perpetuate – long before the Governor thought about it. Allendale County is an excellent example of what white private schools will do to a community – and what those schools have been doing for more than 30 years.

Full Article


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