Lawmakers must vote down PPIC, whatever its form
LAWMAKERS IN the state House of Representatives have an easy choice to make now concerning the bill known as “Put Parents in Charge.” They should abandon any pretense that this idea is worth foisting off on even a couple of school districts in our state, and vote the bill down.
The measure that would have given widespread tax credits to parents who send their children to private schools has been amended into a small-scale, long-term experiment that would operate in two South Carolina school districts.
It is very clear what is going on here, politically. A measure has emerged to give cover to the few lawmakers who remain cowed by the prospect of attacks by the pro-tax credit lobby. Those lawmakers can vote for the greatly watered-down bill, hoping that will protect them from challengers next primary day. (Those affected by this issue are Republicans; pick another day and another issue, and this same message might be directed at Democrats.)
Any lawmakers with a notion left in their minds that they need to vote for this bill, or fear the consequences if they don’t, should abandon those thoughts. There is no credible evidence the people of South Carolina — whatever their party affiliation — are clamoring for this idea. “Put Parents in Charge,” whether in its larger form the Ways and Means Committee considered or its “pilot” form the panel adopted, is a bankrupt proposal. The people of South Carolina don’t want it and don’t need it. What they need is full, consistent support of our state’s public schools..
Consider how some groups potentially affected by “Put Parents in Charge” have acted. Private schools have not rushed to endorse this measure in great numbers. If tax credits offered private schools more students, in a number of instances it would not be the type of students many private schools seek. The business community has not rallied behind the proposal — far from it. Chambers of commerce in greater Columbia, Anderson and Charleston specifically went on record as not supporting “Put Parents in Charge.”
Proponents of the bill tried to sell it as something that helps poor people and cited the support of African-American clergy. The truth is that truly poor people would likely see zero benefit from income tax credits. The one group of black pastors who supported PPIC was funded by the national movement’s South Carolina face, “South Carolinians for Responsible Government.” A group of black pastors speaking independently — some of whom have private schools at their own churches — quickly moved to oppose the bill.
House Speaker David Wilkins told The State’s Jennifer Talhelm there will be a full House debate on the measure. That shouldn’t take too long — a full, honest debate, one that gets past advocates’ misrepresentations and lawmakers’ fears, would quickly make it clear that this is a lousy idea.
As it has been from the beginning — and remains in its present form — “Put Parents it Charge” is an unnecessary distraction from the real work that needs to be done on public education in South Carolina.
No lawmakers — Republicans or Democrats — should fear to pursue the infinitely superior alternative: unwavering support of our public schools and of the successful reforms already under way inside them.