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Features : Editorial Last Updated: Jan 30, 2013 - 9:10:17 AM


Let's empower the future of SC through Univeral School Choice
By Sen. Larry Grooms (R - Bonneau)
Jan 30, 2013 - 9:08:58 AM

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All parents strive to be able to provide the best opportunities for their children. We should demand nothing less from our education system.
We must have universal school choice in South Carolina. Parents must be empowered to send their children to the public, private, charter or magnet school of their choice, and our state must do a better job supporting parents who choose to home school their children.
Every child is different. Every child has different needs and faces different challenges. Some strive in the structure of the traditional classroom. Others only excel when they’re challenged through a non-traditional environment – possibly through the arts, outdoor-based education or a faith-based setting. Still others face a constant struggle with learning disabilities and need specially-tailored curriculum and aggressive tutoring and follow-up.
Unfortunately, in South Carolina many of those children – children who could achieve greatness, given the opportunity – are left behind, lost in a one-size-fits-all, government-run education monopoly.
In South Carolina, instead of empowering parents, our antiquated system and overreaching bureaucracy reduces parental input, stifles creativity, and limits opportunity for our children. Instead of parents making the decisions on how and where their children attend school, those choices are made by bureaucrats and the vagaries of district lines. Living on the wrong side of the street can mean that your children attend a school that doesn’t challenge them, doesn’t fulfill their unique needs and doesn’t put them on the path to success.
For those who can afford it, there are options beyond the public school system. Parents who can write a tuition check for a private K-12 education are not subjected to the same limits as the vast majority of South Carolina families.
The argument for universal school choice is simple: Every child – no matter where they live or what their family’s income level – should have the same opportunity as everyone else. We can no longer condemn our most at-risk children to schools that fail to fulfill their needs.
South Carolina is falling behind the country when it comes to K-12 education. Across the country, more than 212,000 students are participating in school choice programs. School choice is the law in 37 states, and three additional states enacted school choice legislation in 2012 alone. Georgia and North Carolina both have school choice.
In Florida, a state with one of the longest-running school choice programs, the results have been nothing short of revolutionary. Florida enacted school choice in 2001. Today, more than 37,000 low-income students and 23,000 students with learning disabilities go to the school of their parents’ choice.  Breaking free after years of stagnation, Florida now ranks first in the nation for gains among students with learning disabilities, third for largest gains among low-income students, and fourth among African American students.
All because of that simple premise: Parents should be empowered to send their children to the school of their choice.
This is School Choice Week. Please join this fight. Call your legislators. Demand action. Demand opportunity for every child.  It is time for the South Carolina legislature to pass universal school choice. It is time for the South Carolina legislature to let all children – regardless of income, race or social status – attend the school that their parents choose for them.
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