A New 4K Program
H.3424 would create the South Carolina Child Development Education Program (CDEP), which would provide 4 year old pre-kindergarten to “at risk” children in South Carolina. Unfortunately, federal studies of national level programs have found pre-kindergarten programs to have few if any lasting educational benefits for children. If this were to hold true in South Carolina, (and there’s no reason to think our state would be an exception), taxpayers would be essentially on the hook for a new state-provided daycare program, something far outside the scope of core government functions. The fact that South Carolina already provides a number of similar programs makes this bill even more questionable.
Public School Choice
S.313 would implement a school district choice program in South Carolina. In other words, public funding for schools would, by and large, be directly tied to the student, allowing students and parents to choose schools outside of their district to attend. If a school has failed the student in the past, then under this system, the student would now be permitted to shop around for another school. This provides for public charter schools, magnet schools, and other specialized programs. This bill, although limited in scope, would at least introduce free market principles to South Carolina’s consistently bottom-tier public education system.
S. 279 would allow an annual state income tax deduction up to $2,000 for the parent(s)/guardian of each home-schooled student. It would allow a similar deduction up to $4,000 for each private school student, and up to $1,000 for each student attending a public school outside his/her resident public school district. The bill also offers tax credits to those who donate to organizations that provide primary education scholarships to children who qualify for various kinds of government assistance. Unfortunately, the main provision of this bill (the deductions) falls short of offering to average South Carolinians real alternatives to our current public education system. A $4,000 deduction for a family making the median income in South Carolina would save that family roughly $280, hardly enough to pay for a private education. The education system in this state needs serious reform, not lip service in the name of choice. For a more detailed analysis of this bill see our piece “School Choice this Year?”.
Basing Higher Ed Budget on Base Student Cost
S.89 would have the General Assembly establish a higher education base student cost each year. Each public higher education institution would then only be funded based on the number of students enrolled multiplied by this base student cost. As we’ve mentioned before, public universities – which, whether their administrators admit it or not, are in fact state agencies – have seen their funding increase even as graduation rates have decreased. Preventing these institutions from arbitrarily increasing their budgets is therefore in the best interest of taxpayers.
Increasing Compulsory School Attendance Age
H.3339 would increase the child’s age at which a parent or guardian no longer has the responsibility of forcing the child to attend school from seventeen to eighteen. While well intended, this law would do nothing to solve the real education problem in South Carolina. If a student is willing to drop out at the age of seventeen, there is very little chance that forcing the parents to force this student to attend until the age of eighteen would do anything to actually help the student academically. Again, just as increased funding for districts hasn’t resulted in better test scores, this bill does not fix the real education problem that parental school choice would help solve.
Requiring Homeschooled Children to take Standardized Tests
H.3478 would require homeschooled students to take the same annual statewide test as children attending public schools. The bill would also require the test be administered by certified school district employee, and that the cost of administering the test must be paid for by the parents of the homeschooled child if the test is administered in the child’s home. At a time when our public school test performances continue to worsen or at best stagnate, the state should focus its efforts on students in these institutions, not on further regulating homeschooled children whose academic achievements most often eclipses their public schooled peers.
Exempting Employed 60 Year Olds from Paying Tuition
S.259 would exempt South Carolina citizens 60 or older who receive compensation as full-time employees from paying tuition at state universities under the jurisdiction of the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education. At a time when tuition for South Carolina universities continues to rise, why would the state exempt older citizens from paying for education while our youth continue to accumulate more and more debt in pursuit of a college degree? Medicare and Social Security operate essentially by redistributing wealth from the relatively poor young to the relatively wealthy old: there’s no good reason for South Carolina to further contribute to this trend.
Mandating Schools Teach CPR
H.3368 is another bill in which state lawmakers have trivially asserted themselves in local affairs without heed to any consequences. By mandating that schools give instruction in CPR, energy and time for more vital parts of education are diverted elsewhere. The bill also mandates the school to use funds to buy an automated external defibrillator (or AED) without any funding provisions. Learning CPR, while good and noble thing to do, isn’t any part of what a public school should provide its students.
Prohibiting Common Core Standards
S.300 would prohibit Common Core State Standards, essentially a national curriculum, developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative from being imposed on South Carolina. Education is constitutionally a state issue, not a national one. Insofar as government should be involved in education, its policies and standards should be left with a government closest to the people whose children it effects. This bill will ensure that the determination of our state’s educational curriculum stays where it belongs – with South Carolina officials rather than with unknown and unelected bureaucrats in Washington.
Taxing Private Schools in Same Manner as Public Schools
S.451 would give private schools and home schools the same tax exemptions that public schools get. While it’s unfortunate that there are tax exemptions in the first place, it is important that private schools not be put at a disadvantage compared to public schools. This would be a positive step towards giving parents a choice over their children’s education, and not penalizing them for choosing private school or home school for their children.
A New Government Program for School Food
S.191 would create the South Carolina Fresh on the Campus Program within the Department of Agriculture. Its purpose would be to “foster direct relationships between South Carolina farms, schools, and other institutions and to provide schools and other institutions with fresh and minimally processed foods for consumption by students.” And like nearly all new programs and agencies, this proposal states the program will “create jobs”. This bill also mandates that this new program “seek grants and private funding as appropriate”—meaning this is will just add to the Department of Agriculture’s already bloated budget. Bills like this may have good intentions, but they result in more money taken from taxpayers to fund government programs that the private market could provide more efficiently and with more expertise.
Creating an Unaccountable “Enterprise Division” for Clemson
S.535 would enact the “Clemson University Enterprise Act” which would establish an Enterprise Division as a part of the university. Various assets, programs, and operations of the university would be transferred to this new division, and this bill provides that the division is exempt from various laws governing procurement, human resources, personnel, and disposition of property. Furthermore, the Enterprise Division would have the power to acquire property under terms it considers appropriate, retain services of consultants and attorneys, issue bonds, enter relationships with non-profits, and even finance capital improvements, which wouldn’t be subject to normal procurement processes.
Higher Education Institutions are already some of the biggest drivers of budget increases; creating a new unaccountable division for a major university would just create another avenue for university bureaucrats to spend at will, with no regard for the taxpayers. Not to mention, the procurement exemptions open the door for cronyism between university buyers and their friends’ companies.
Allowing Local School Districts to Sponsor Charter Schools
S.436 would establish the ability of a local school district to support a public charter school in another adjoining school district if that school serves predominately “at-risk” students, or students who, in other words, by virtue of their circumstances are more likely to fail academically. The fluidity of support in the bill allows for charter schools to be effective outside the traditional restraints on school districts. The bill provides that the sponsored school can also be deemed to be located in the sponsoring district for a variety of purposes.
Requiring Students Take, But Not Pass Exit Exams
H.3919 would amend current law concerning statewide educational assessment programs. The law while leaving intact the requirement that high school students take an exit exam, makes clear that students could no longer be denied graduation for failing the exam. By removing the student requirement to pass, the exit exams are now only suitable for generating school performance data. By making clear students need not pass the exams however, the testing required by this bill is likely to produce skewed results. The usefulness of standardized tests for both school and student evaluation and improvement is already disputed, and making clear that negative student performance on these tests will have no consequences for students is not likely to improve the tests as useful evaluation standards. To achieve better data on school performance, the state should make clear that students have a stake in these exams or better yet, find an alternative method to standardized exams for performance evaluations.
The nerve has reported at length on this bill in the story “Exit Exam Costs SC Taxpayers $3.5 Million-Plus Yearly”
Holding Back students who fail to meet standardized testing standards
H. 4088 would enact a number of changes to South Carolina’s public education system, the most notable of which is requiring students be retained in their current grade if they fail to demonstrate by way of end of year exam that their English and math skills are at grade level. There is one exception to this new restriction: Students may be passed to the next grade if they attend summer school and take another test while attending summer school that demonstrates the required level of performance in the required subjects. Parents would have to pay $125 per course taken by their child in summer school.
If children are being forced into summer school due to lacking requisite skills, why are we punishing parents with additional costs when it is the schooling system that is failing? Further, The Nerve reported on a similar bill recently and noted that no fiscal impact had been determined, which holds true for this bill as well. Finally, the premise of this bill is highly questionable as independent studies have cast doubts on the efficacy of standardized testing as a learning indicator.