Guest Editorial: School choice means more freedom for state

  • Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The recent elections have even the most optimistic among us acknowledging a slow but steady slide from the historically and uniquely American ideal of protection of personal liberty and responsibility.
For some this trend may be most evident in the debate over Obamacare or the “Fiscal Cliff.”  Travelers might find the probing of a TSA agent a particularly intrusive reminder that their personal freedom isn’t the government’s primary concern.  While these are familiar subjects for many of us, they are just a few examples of government overreach.
As a father and an American I am deeply troubled by the erosion of our foundational liberties, and particularly so when considering my children’s future.
Yet even in a political landscape that appears bleak to many Americans, there is a tremendously encouraging national movement toward personal freedom.
National School Choice Week was observed earlier this month. Across the country, parents are uniting behind the idea that they – not government – know best about where and how their children should be educated.
If you’re skeptical about whether call school choice can be termed a freedom movement, keep in mind that 37 states have already enacted some form of school choice. Over 212,000 students across America are in a school choice program. Last year three states began new programs, and six other existing programs were expanded.
Our neighbors in Georgia and North Carolina enjoy school choice options. I am hard-pressed to find another public policy issue that has this much national momentum, that is this forward-thinking and that has this deep an effect on personal freedom.
The momentum is easy to explain. School choice is popular with parents, and it works.
Consider Florida, which has the nation’s most expansive school choice program.
In 2001, Florida began a program for low-income students and students with learning disabilities.  Today, more than 37,000 low-income students and 23,000 students with learning disabilities benefit.  Florida ranks first in the nation for gains among students with learning disabilities, third for gains among low-income students, and fourth for gains among African American students.
These dramatic results – the "Florida Miracle” – make one wonder why our own “Palmetto State Miracle” has not been put in place. It certainly is not for lack of parental support or lack of a plan.
S.279 is the bill I wrote that offers that plan.  It is similar to Florida's in emphasizing low-income and special needs students.  It recognizes that every child learns differently from one another, and that they benefit from expanded educational opportunities.
Other states are pushing back against the failed government-knows-best approach to education.  Commonsense legislators in Columbia again have a chance to join them.
Our lawmakers are faced with a question holds tremendous significance for our children.  Will South Carolina join the movement for educational freedom, or be left behind?
Senator Grooms lives in Bonneau and represents District 37, which includes Berkeley and Charleston counties.

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