Over 1,500 people gather in support of Student Choice

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Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 8:46 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Over 1,500 people from across the Palmetto State gathered in Columbia to celebrate National Student Choice Week on Wednesday.

The observation came as members of the State House continued their debate over a bill in support of school choice.

In what was supposed to be a march to the capitol turned into a rally within the USC Alumni Center on Senate Street due to inclement weather.

The indoor festivities featured a panel of elected Republicans in support of the “Put Parents in Charge Act,” a state bill carried over by the Senate on Wednesday evening.

If passed into law, this legislation would allow parents to spend public money to enlist their children in private schools.

Hundreds of students, parents, and educators cheered on the state’s newly elected Superintendent of Education, Ellen Weaver for her remarks in support of school choice.

She was joined by a series of likeminded contemporaries, including an elected official from Governor Henry McMaster’s office:

“[School choice] is so important for our state. This is not groundbreaking. States that have seen the biggest jumps in educational outcomes have chosen [school] choice. You know, a high tide rises all ships,” said Lieutenant Governor Pamela Evette to WIS.

Despite school choice’s promise, the bill is met with an equal amount of opposition from educators familiar with the topic.

Those who oppose the legislation say school choice will take critically needed funding away from South Carolina public schools, weakening an already underfunded system.

Dr. Jim Rex, a former South Carolina Superintendent of Education, spoke with WIS personally.

“The schools in South Carolina have never been adequately funded by our legislation… The school choice that people are against or concerned about, which I’m certainly one of those, is the school choice that takes public dollars and gives it to private schools who are not accessible to all students. And who are not held accountable in terms of what they’re teaching, or the outcomes, or the performance of their students,” said Dr. Rex over the phone.

Speaking for many, Dr. Rex supports parents’ freedom to enroll their children in a public or private school of their choosing. However, he does not believe a parent’s right should be subsidized with tax dollars.

WIS asked the Lieutenant General why she thinks some South Carolinians are opposed to school choice:

“I don’t know why we would oppose it. Because we see in so many different areas, that when you have choices when people can make decisions for their children, that is what sparks the fire. Life is not a one-size-fits-all for anything, so why should it be for education?”

Thirty-one states already offer tuition assistance or scholarships to private schools.

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