Advocates and critics of voucher programs from other states chime in on SC legislation

Advocates and critics of voucher programs from other states chime in on SC legislation

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Members of a Senate Education Subcommittee discussing a bill that would create education savings accounts for certain students, also called school vouchers by some, are taking a look at other states to get an idea of what kind of impact a program could have in South Carolina.

Julie Alexander is an Administrator from Williston Central Christian Academy in Williston, Florida. She said her private school has made a difference in the lives of students in their rural community.

Alexander testified during a Senate Education Subcommittee meeting last week. She told lawmakers, "I've seen students who have made huge strides when they are in an environment for them."

Senators listened to testimony from Alexander and other advocates from Arizona.

Both states currently have school voucher programs.

S.556 would create a program for families with students with special needs and for families with students attending under-performing schools in South Carolina. If passed, the accounts would be funded by state money.

According to experts, there are about 13,000 students in Florida taking advantage of a similar program and about 6,5000 students in Arizona.

Advocates like Sarah Raybon said thanks to the availability of these scholarships, families with students with special needs now have more options when it comes to their child's education.

Raybon said, "We have seen the growth of those schools and the expansion of those schools based on those saving account options."

Joe Thomas is the President of the Arizona Education Association. He said, "We have created a system where parents are competing against parents. Students are competing against students for these precious dollars we need in our school system so we can have quality education for everyone."

The Senate Education Subcommittee is meeting again Thursday, The school choice debate will heat back up in the State House.

Alexander said these scholarships give students a chance to get a quality education, "Your child needs to be in a place to find success. We want to make sure every child at our school - we can meet the needs they have."

Thomas said any money being taken away from public education is a bad thing. “Fight to keep your public dollars in your public schools. That’s where you have accountability. They are the cornerstone of every community in Arizona and South Carolina,” he said.

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