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To Compete Or Not To Compete June 22, 2007

Posted by fitsnews in SC Politics.

non compete


FITSNews – June 22, 2007 – We’ve heard every argument under the sun from school choice opponents in South Carolina telling us we shouldn’t “abandon our commitment to public schools” and pursue a more market-based approach to education – one that gives parents a mere fraction of what our government monopoly currently spends per child to pursue alternative educational options for their young ones.

Typically, the anti-choice forces throw out the same tired old rhetoric about how market-based solutions would “destroy public education,” or they engage in overtly political attempts to demonize school choice supporters as part of a “radical right-wing agenda.” As if helping poor and middle class students get the education they rightfully deserve is somehow a “right-wing” concept.

However, every once in awhile cracks appear in the education establishment’s whole “for the children” facade, assuming of course that South Carolina spending another billion dollars on its public schools over the last four years only to remain last in the country in graduation rates and last in SAT scores wasn’t enough of a “crack” in the argument to begin with.

Anyway, a crack of a different sort was clearly visible in this morning’s column by Cindi Ross-Scoppe, who is solidifying her title as the uber-apologist for the nation’s worst school system.

As part of The State newspaper’s ongoing crusade to conceal the fact that educational freedom is a proven and fundamental prerequisite for academic advancement in all educational arenas, Scoppe accidentally stumbled upon a rare nugget of truth in her column today, all but admitting that the educrats presently running our public school system into the ground are wholly incapable of changing or competing:

Vouchers, on the other hand, would pull those same “parents of high-achieving students” out of the public school community, making them — and their middle-class neighbors — feel like they have no stake in the public schools, no need for them. This would drain so much political support from our public schools that financial support also would dry up, teaching would become even less of a draw for our smartest young people and our schools would become ghettos …

Make no mistake, herein lies the most elemental motivation of the entire anti-choice movement – maintaining political and financial support for a system that has squandered both of these gifts for decades. After all, why bother to fix anything when the checks keep getting bigger and bigger each year for doing nothing? Why innovate and demand real accountability when the only consequence for failing to do so is a monetary reward?

Look, people. Our public schools would not become ghettos because of competition, far too many of them already ARE ghettos because there is no competition.

And for the record, our “stake” should never be preserving a bureaucratic monopoly that has failed in every sense of the word to accomplish any of its objectives, it should be focused solely on implementing those ideas that have proven to be effective at raising academic achievement for ALL students – public, private, parochial, charter, whatever.

“This isn’t a business, these are our children,” the pro-government monopoly forces are constantly reminding us.

And maybe they have a point. After all, if education was a “business” in South Carolina, the company would have declared bankruptcy decades ago and had its assets sold to the highest bidder.

But the transparent hypocrisy of it all is just baffling to us.

How anyone can claim to be “for the children” while perpetuating a system that leaves hundreds of thousands of them without access to a quality education year after year is utterly beyond our comprehension. Obviously, being “for the children” stops the moment political support is obtained and another billion dollars in Department of Education funding is approved.

Yet God forbid we run it like a business. Remember, “these are our children.”

These are our children, indeed. And we’re failing them one generation after another because we refuse to admit as a state what Mrs. Scoppe inadvertently admitted this morning, which is that under South Carolina’s current system all the money and all the political support in the world isn’t going to make our schools competitive again. How do we know that’s true? We’ve tried that approach for decades.

Only real competition can do that, a market-based environment that puts the power into the hands of consumers driven by the most fundamental need they’ll ever experience – the best interests of their own children.

The good news is that in their never-ending struggle to unearth semi-plausible excuses for opposing school choice, status quo apologists are at last beginning to acknowledge the real motivations behind their recalcitrance.

Perhaps one day, they’ll also acknowledge the crippling limitations their recalcitrance has imposed on generations of South Carolinians – and the need to remove those limitations at once in order to achieve meaningful change.



1. Squire - June 22, 2007


2. McJunkin - June 22, 2007

Let me understand this now: “Competition” is all we need i for a better school system in SC –“a market-based environment that puts the power into the hands of consumers driven by the most fundamental need…their best interests.” Fair enough. But Is not politics one of the most competitive endeavors in society and are not voters comparable to consumers? Both of whom are supposedly driven by their best interests to make the best choice? How do you explain the fact then that in the last two election cycles “free competition’ and the almighty “marketplace” has resulted in this state electing one constitutional officer who served prison time for bribery and extortion and another who is awaiting trial for disributuion of cocaine? Go figure.

3. More Voucher Scam Rhetoric - June 22, 2007

Mcjunkin, remember that Will likes to take credit for working for and helping elect the one waiting trial for cocaine distribution. Go figure.

4. Syd - June 22, 2007

Speaking of tired old rhetoric… How many basic necessities of life are you going to turn over to corporate thieves before you admit that when it comes to serving the greater good your “market forces” are really just double-speak for “help the wealthy elite get more healthy and more elite.” When you say “market forces” what you really mean is subsidies for the rich at the expense of everyone else. If you REALLY believed in market forces, then why wouldn’t you combine all schools, public, private, charter, whatever and then assess what is failing and what isn’t. Right now, you’re comparing apples and oranges as your basis for condemning the oranges. How you can you possibly compare the “success” of rich, white schools in which teachers are paid more and work less, classroom sizes are a third and they have access to all possible resources, to schools that stuggle to find classrooms at all and books for everyone and where teachers are often forced to subsidize their students out of their own pockets or watch them struggle even more.

What you want…what you REALLY WANT, is what all voucher proponents want — you want to segregate your money from the general population so it pays only for your kids and kids who look like your kids. That’s your version of market forces.

5. Newspaper Hack - June 22, 2007

“Market-based approach?”

Well, why don’t we try that for defense? We don’t need these big-government blowhards wasting all our money. After all, the market can do so much better than the bad ol’ government.

Mercenaries for everybody!

6. FITSNews - June 23, 2007


We don’t have any kids … that we know of. We would probably educate them in the best school we could find using whatever resources were available if we did though.

Your class warfare arguments fall on deaf ears here as well, as the Legislature rejected a school choice bill that would have provided scholarships to kids below the poverty level in failing and below average schools … only after the public system had rejected their transfer requests.

And what about the middle class parents? The moms and dads working two jobs each just to make ends meet? You don’t think we should help them find a better school for their kids?

In case you haven’t noticed – which judging from the lack of yeast in your arguments you haven’t – there aren’t a lot of millionaires in backward-ass states like South Carolina. This is for the poor and regular peeps, yo.


P.S. – It’s funny how all you haters got is rhetoric and change-the-subject personal swipes. Show us some numbers!!!

7. The Trawlerman - June 23, 2007

Free markets have made this nation the most prosperous in the history of mankind. Yet educrats would have you believe that, for some inexplicable reason, the free market and the competition it engenders for excellence has no place in public education — that we are far better off with a Soviet-style, top-down approach to education innovation. If that type of in-the-box thinking had prevailed earlier in the 20th century, we’d be looking today at the best iron lung money could buy as our only defense against an un-eradicated polio virus.

8. Public School Parent Who Prefers Choice - June 23, 2007

And Ms. Ross-Scoppe conveniently ignores the details of the phony “school choice” bill. It doesn’t go into effect until 2009 and then only opens slots equal to 0.5% of the enrollment in districts that decide they are not overcrowded. It then takes another five years to raise the school choice slots to 3%.

So, basically, a student entering first grade this year in one of the pitiful schools has a less than 3% chance of moving to a better school by the time he reaches high school. Gee, I wonder how much impact that will have? Meanwhile, Ms. Ross-Scoppe and the “keep ’em down on the plantation” public school apologists live in fear that any voucher program might be attempted even on a needs based basis because any success would make them look foolish.

This school choice scam is purely a public relations ploy to set up some handpicked photo-ops when Jim Rex seeks re-election.

9. McJunkin - June 23, 2007

Re: “Show us some numbers” I think the same should be asked of the pro-voucher folks. Taking into account demographics, show us some numbers that demonstrate that private schools provide better instruction and have better teachers than public schools. Of course private schools have higher graduation rates and higher SAT scores on the average than public schools. If they didn’t something would be seriously wrong–they are largely white and middle class and have parents who take an interest in their education. The same cannot be said for many public school students. One point that Ms. Scoppe was making is that if you further deplete through vouchers the public schools
in some communities of those remaining white, middle-class students then they will decline in quality even further, The result will be a public school system in the rural and urban areas of SC that increasingly are composed of poor minority kids from broken families who will lack any hope of a better future. You need look no further than Allendale County or inner city Charleston to see that in action right now. I do not know what the answer is to providing a quality education for all our children, but I do not believe that the answer is to run away from the problem. As John F. Kennedy once said: “If we cannot help the many who are poor in our society, we cannot save the few who are rich.”

10. FITSNews - June 23, 2007


Educate yourselves … http://www.schoolchoiceinfo.org


11. McJunkin - June 23, 2007

“Haters”? Why do you right-wing types think that just because someone disagrees with you that they automatically “hate” you. I like the comment of Sen. Lindsey Graham who said to the effect that he refused to hate certain people or groups just because political expedience required that he should. By the way, a school choice website is probably about as unbiased a source of info regarding the voucher issue as a White Aryan Nation one would be regarding race relations.

12. Syd - June 23, 2007

We don’t have any kids … that we know of. We would probably educate them in the best school we could find using whatever resources were available if we did though.

………………….”kids” was meant to extend the metaphor of society. They are all our kids, in a sense…and providing them ALL with the best resources available is exactly what we’re talking about. Vouchers would do nothing for those who can’t afford to travel to private schools.

Your class warfare arguments fall on deaf ears here as well, as the Legislature rejected a school choice bill that would have provided scholarships to kids below the poverty level in failing and below average schools … only after the public system had rejected their transfer requests.

………………..surely you’re not suggesting that would mean EVERY child below the poverty level would be accepted and placed as well as transported daily to private schools on the government’s tab? It’s like saying there is free clean air available in the clouds. All you have to do is fly there.

And what about the middle class parents? The moms and dads working two jobs each just to make ends meet? You don’t think we should help them find a better school for their kids?

………………that’s what we’re talking about, but it’s not really what you’re talking about — even though you’d like to think it is. Vouchers are all about are those families that have parents who aren’t working two jobs or more and who already can afford private school. it’s about segregating funds.

In case you haven’t noticed – which judging from the lack of yeast in your arguments you haven’t – there aren’t a lot of millionaires in backward-ass states like South Carolina. This is for the poor and regular peeps, yo.

………………ok, holmeslice, in case YOU haven’t noticed, it’s not about how many millionaires there are. it’s about whether we as a people regardless of how much access to resources we have are going to recognize that education of all strata of society is everyone’s responsibility and vouchers are just another way for those who don’t believe in helping everyone to avoid paying their share to help.

I personally don’t like my taxes be used for ridiculous defense programs fund starwars systems that will never work or gay-making bombs, but I don’t get a say in it. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe there is a need for defense spending, though. I recognize the value of defense for everyone.


P.S. – It’s funny how all you haters got is rhetoric and change-the-subject personal swipes. Show us some numbers!!!

…………….right back at you, dude. show us some numbers that weren’t cherry picked to support your point.

13. FITSNews - June 23, 2007

Looks like the entire Department of Education PR staff has logged on today … cool! Thanks for the hits, yo.

McJunkin – We wrote a blog about school choice and the second comment out of the box was a swipe against Sic Willie regarding T-Rav’s alleged cocaine use. The last time we wrote on the subject, Sic Willie got called a paid “snake oil salesmen” for an organization we don’t even work for. The time before that, Sic Willie was referred to as a “drunk” and told to “go hit on a cocktail waitress.” Then we got a rehash of Sic Willie’s CDV “plea” and every other negative story available on a two-page Google search. You tell us who’s hating …

Then tell us what any of that has to do with the subject at hand.

Syd – Want numbers? Since Milwaukee’s scholarship program was implemented in 1990, the number of public school students entering two year degree programs has quadrupled, the public school dropout rate has declined by 9% and public school test scores are up in 12 of 15 categories. And that’s just the public school students, “homeslice.” In Florida, the number of failing schools was cut in half after school choice was implemented, and in Cleveland, the public schools which were exposed to competition in the form of choice schools in their areas nearly doubled the academic achievement gains of public schools that had no competition.

You don’t have to cherry-pick numbers showing school choice works – there simply aren’t any numbers that show it doesn’t.

As for your attempt to read our minds and insinuate that we’re not talking about poor and middle class kids, what part of “poor and middle class kids” were you unable to read on the page? And what part of the amendment offered exclusively for those kids (which the State Senate rejected) did you not understand?

We agree w/ you that society is about educating our kids. That’s why the fact that this state fails to educate half of them is so intolerable.

What else you suckers got?

14. Scott - June 23, 2007

The public school sycophants continually tell us that school choice is going to hurt the public school system.

How does that happen? Has it hurt the public schools in Milwaukee, Washington, DC, Cleveland, Arizona, Pennsylvania or Florida? NO. The Milwaukee superintendent was even quoted as syaing the school choice helped the graduation rates, test scores, etc. once it was implemented.

There is just no way that school choice would hurt the public schools.

15. Joshua Gross - June 23, 2007

I have to agree with Trawlerman (and sic Willie) on this one – Free markets are what made this nation great – and what can make our educational system great.

Is Competition the sole answer? No, of course not. BUT, it is the reform that is the gatekeeper to all other reforms. Parental involvement is the critical key – and school choice is the pinnacle of parental involvement.

At the end of the day, the questions are these – whose children? and whose money? If the answer is the state, then by all means continue the state monopoly. If the answers are parents and taxpayers, then let’s unleash the power of the free market for the betterment of the future for the children of SC.

16. Silence Dogood - June 23, 2007

Josh, free markets don’t always work and public education in this country is a direct result of an instance where it did not work. One other thing that has made this nation great, along with free markets, is public education (here and in Britain as well). Unlike other countries we have continually tried to educate the entire population and this has also helped make our nation strong economically as well as in other areas.

Twalerman please correct any grammatical mistakes, or spelling error.

17. Scott - June 23, 2007

SILENCE DOGOOD – Why do the markets work marvelously with college education and preschool education – but would fail with K-12?

Education is vitally important to our state – but we have got to work for the betterment of each and every student – and not continually protect a system that fails to help children.

As Jim Rex said, “Reform delayed is reform denied.” Private school choice, charter schools, alternative certification and reduction of the ridiculous paperwork required of our public school teachers can all go a long way in helping South Carolina students succeed.

18. Syd - June 23, 2007

whatever, dude. it’s your blog, and at the very least I applaud you for not deleting opinions (we’re glad to give you hits in exchange for open discussion)…so go ahead and continue to cherry pick all the stats and studies you want that fit your opinion. but please please don’t try to sell us on the bullshit line that vouchers are about equality. how about being a little more intellectually honest and admit that while you might, the majority of voucher proponents are not the slightest bit interested in assisting the poor in urban or rural schools. it’s so clear they are solely interested in earmarking their tax dollars to support suburban christian, upper class white kids and the schools they attend.

19. Silence Dogood - June 23, 2007

Scott, not everyone attends college and we don’t currently deem it important enough as a society that eveyone does attend college (I don’t know whether it is or not), but to expand public education to make government cover the private school choices of individual persons is a big government solution that I find curious so many republicans embrace – I have no knowledge of your political affiliations – whether its done in a tax rebate, voucher or directly paid for to the school out of government coffers based on enrollement is a difference without distinction (except for very particular legal/constitutional issue for parochial schools) and expands government entitlement. I don’t know if the Pre-K or college examples are analougous. Not everyone attends college and it is not mandated by law that they do – same with Pre-K. If the only people who are going are self selected to go, personally or by their parents, I am sure they do work better than when everyone is mandated to go, therefore I don’t think this elucidates a good counterexample of free markets over coming the education problems which S.C. currently faces. Likely poverty is one of the biggest issues currently hurting public education in S.C., of all the 45-50 states which currently lead us in education and not the lack of vouchers.

20. State of the Debate « The Voice for School Choice - June 24, 2007

[…] 23rd, 2007 · No Comments FITSnews has one heck of a good post on the school choice debate in […]

21. Go Team Go - June 24, 2007

Will the paid political hack is being shouted down by reasonable citizens. This is a clear indication of why vouchers keep being defeated in S.C.

22. FITSNews - June 24, 2007

There’s a lot of anger and accusation on this subject, obviously … which is probably why we keep bringing it up.

Yet whether we’re shouted up or shouted down, on this subject or any other, we’re going to keep the megaphone pointed at you …


23. Public School Parent Who Prefers Choice - June 25, 2007

Haven’t seen a single post yet which defends the Jim Rex’s phony school choice bill. It’s a photo-op feel-good sham. 0.5% of enrollment three years from now for districts that decide for themselves whether they are not overcrowded. No transportation either for those who are lucky enough to get a new spot. Bet you see a lot of 8th grade running backs from lousy schools finding their way into new schools with top football programs.

Why are you public school prison wardens so afraid to try ANYTHING different? How could it possibly be worse for kids in abysmal schools? Pick one school in Allendale and give each kid a $10K voucher (which is less than they spend per pupil now). See what happens.

24. upstater - June 26, 2007

All this is very interesting, but there are just very obviously some logical questions regarding the whole deal:

— Which strong private schools — the ones some school choice folks like to hold up as a contrast to our lagging public education system — will accept struggling students? Where did Will go to school? Hammond Academy? Is Hammond going to take 8th graders reading on a 4th grade level? How about the school where the governor’s kids go? Heathwood Hall? Is Mark Sanford going to demand that his children’s school accept 5th graders reading on a 2nd grade level and students who have been suspended a handful of times in the last year?

Is there a private school in Columbia ready to take students who are struggling behaviorally and academically (the same kind of students whose test scores and graduation rates make SC 50th or whatever)? How about in Hampton County? Or Williamsburg County?

— Some choice advocates say that, well, new money into the “free market” will create innovation, new schools, whatever. There may be some truth to this — likely so. But do these folks really have any idea the costs involved in running a school? Is Hammond Academy run on tuition dollars alone? Is Heathwood? Is Lowcountry Originally-Segregationist Academy? Or do these schools also operate to a significant extent on endowments and ongoing fundraising, the sort of money that won’t be available through tax credits or vouchers?

How are facilities constructed? With tuition money? I would doubt it. Sure, there may be storefronts available for cheap in rundown strip malls. Some choice advocates tout such a scenario, and, indeed, maybe a good education could be had there, with the right mix of students and teachers. But it’s funny: the well-to-do folks who are buying private education now don’t seem to be starting up schools much in rundown strip malls; the seem to prefer for their own children to go to schools with gymnasiums and decent classrooms and playgrounds, etc.

Churches offer a possibility, as many have classrooms already, even gyms in some cases. But even that’s likely to be a tough outlet in our state’s poorest counties and towns, where the churches have less to work with.

— What about transportation? Without transportation, “choice” is basically meaningless for many, many families. Choice advocates say that’s a detail that can be worked out. Certainly, with enough money, it probably can. But at what expense? Does it come out of a family’s tuition money? That would have an impact on what families can afford and, thus, choose. We have public-owned buses, but are they to run extra routes — to the local public schools AND the private schools? Maybe we’re talking logistics here, but logistics can be pretty important.

— Meanwhile, the Put Parents in Charge proposal that Will Folks used to tout guaranteed money to parents of a certain middle-class level. But what did it promise to our state’s poorest families, those who pay little in income tax? If I’m not mistaken, PPIC promised those families nothing!

The proposal called for “scholarship granting organizations” to put money together — through tax credits — for poor kids’ tuition. Would it work? Maybe. Maybe even likely, to some extent. But how many kids would be covered? How long would it take for the SGOs to get into gear? Would the middle-class families getting tax credits pretty much get all the current private school seats in their community before the poor folks could get scholarships? It seems to me that the SGOs sound like a nice idea — and they might, in fact, be able to provide scholarships for a percentage of the poor — but it’s really unclear.

Again, PPIC guaranteed money to the middle-class but not to the poor children who, in general, have the lowest test scores and graduation rates. In reality, while the term “voucher” is made to sound more dirty by anti-choice folks, the deal is that a targeted voucher program may be a lot better for SC’s most struggling students than PPIC’s tax credits.

— So, it seems clear that there are some possibilities for poor children in South Carolina through choice. But it seems equally obvious that these possibilities may be extremely limited — based on logistics; based on admission policies of private schools; based on finances; and if PPIC as Will and Mark Sanford originally promoted it, based on the proposal itself.

With all this mind, it only makes sense that critics point to other potential reforms and innovations (including magnet schools, charter schools, after-school programs, various teaching practices, etc.) while questioning the impact that so-called choice might have on the students who remain in the public system. How will the loss of public school money affect those students? If a proposal like PPIC encouraged middle-class families to leave public schools while offering only limited options to the poor, would there be a drain of community support and leadership for the public education?

Choice supporters sometimes say, Of course not. The public schools must compete. Competition will certainly mean that they’ll just have to get better. Well, here again, the argument isn’t quite what it seems. In sports or business, “competition” generally means playing by the same set of rules. But in education, it doesn’t work that way — at all. Public schools are required by law to do all sorts of things private schools are not. One key example: The kids in a school are part of what gives a school its character, allows for a certain curriculum, and accounts in large part for its test scores. The students help to define the product. Private schools can choose their students. Public schools cannot. The notion that this is “free market”-style competition is absurd.

— Finally, Ms. Scoppe is correct about the need for community support of public schools. Of course, it’s the job of school leaders — both political and appointed — to earn community trust and support. And sometimes they do fail. But it’s also true, I think, that in communities where public education has support, administrators and teachers are held more accountable. MORE is demanded of them, not less. And this doesn’t simply mean “defending the status quo,” as some choice proponents like to charge.

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