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Ted Pitts Is A … December 6, 2007

Posted by fitsnews in SC Politics.



FITSNews – December 6, 2007 – By most accounts, Lexington State Rep. Ted Pitts is a good guy who frequently votes with the emerging conservative caucus in the S.C. House of Representatives.

That’s why it gives us no pleasure this morning to bend him over and introduce him to the business end of our disapproval for his disturbing decision to sell out thousands of South Carolina school children trapped in hundreds of failing and below average public schools.

By endorsing a phantom public school choice proposal championed by Democratic State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex, Pitts has completely betrayed the whole raison d’être of school choice – namely that parents and children ought to be given actual choices as opposed to the politically-expedient, status quo-maintaining illusion of them. And that someone other than the virulently anti-choice education monopoly – which has done nothing but fail our children for decades – ought to be responsible for implementing those choices.

All that’s left now is to determine whether it was cowardice, naked ambition or stupidity (or a combination of all three) that motivated Pitts to deal South Carolina’s children this most unkindest cut … and then to assess the many ways in which his sellout benefits the people most responsible for relegating generations of those very children to second-class status.

Sadly, our bet is that personal ambition played the starring role in Pitts’ decision.

Widely-rumored to be seeking the Chairman’s seat on the powerful House Education Committee (which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the anti-choice education establishment), Pitts’ decision to join forces with the educrats on this bill positions him very nicely to follow fellow school choice opponent Rep. Bob Walker in leading this pivotal committee.

Pitts’ sellout also puts to bed any notion the educrats might have had of running a candidate against him in Lexington County, where the “pro-public schools” movement is especially strong. And while it is doubtful that a challenge against him would have had much chance of success, cozying up to Superintendent Rex’s “phantom choice” bill certainly puts him back in the good graces of an especially vocal segment of his constituency.

There’s also the extremely remote possibility that Pitts is actually dumb enough to think he’s doing some good by going along with this farce, which is clearly the angle he’s taking based on comments like this one in today’s edition of La Socialista:

You can be for this bill. We shouldn’t hold this (issue) hostage if it doesn’t have everything you like.

Pitts’ language is particularly noteworthy in that it leads us into the meat of this discussion, the total lack of choice provided by the “choice” bill he just signed up for.

Under the provisions of last year’s public school choice bill, schools would have been given three years to accomodate a miniscule 3% transfer capacity (based on their highest enrollment figure from the previous decade), but the specific language of the bill would have allowed districts to artificially inflate their definition of “capacity,” and if that didn’t work, to deny admission based on a totally undefined “failed to meet established eligibility requirements” provision.

Bottom line, the fox would have had complete and total discretion over how it guarded the henhouse.

Under Pitts’ bill, which provides even less choice than Rex’s initial offering, these already non-existent options would be further subjected to the whim of hostile educrats.

Amazingly, we think La Socialista‘s banner headline this morning – which was a rare flash of honesty from an otherwise biased source – pretty much sums it up: “(Districts) Would Develop Choice Options But Would Not Have To Implement Them.”

Specifically, “South Carolina’s 85 school systems would not be forced to open their borders to transfer students under (this) scaled-back version of school choice.”

In case you missed it, it’s the whole “not” part of that sentence that’s important. Well, that and the fact this proposal is “scaled back” from last year’s already “choice-less” public school choice bill. Which is hard to imagine.

For his part, Rex is big on pro-choice rhetoric, calling the concept “an idea whose time has come,” but his actions have consistently demonstrated that his only interest is in paying lip service to the idea as a way of preserving the expensive, inefficient and totally ineffective monopoly currently enjoyed by the worst school system in the civilized world.

And now he’s got Pitts in his back pocket.

Say it ain’t so, Ted. Even Jim Clyburn is currently more supportive of school choice than you are.

We sincerely hope Pitts is just being naïve on this one, but it certainly doesn’t appear that’s the case. Which is truly sad, because some things are more important than getting re-elected or winning a Chairman’s seat.

Things like the hundreds of thousands of South Carolina schoolkids you just stabbed in the back, Representative.



1. King Richard - December 6, 2007

Hang in there Ted you are on the right track.

2. Choice Defender - December 6, 2007

Great piece and dead-on. Here’s an interesting tidbit: the cornerstone to true “public school choice” in South Carolina — in fact, the only thing that saves the phrase from being a complete oxymoron — is the charter school movement, led by the South Carolina Public Charter School District and the new statewide charter school district. Neither were even invited to Rex’s pseudo-choice confab until the day of the event. That speaks volumes as to Rex’s true commitment to choice in education. And the fact the Pitts would align himself with the leader of the Democratic Party in this state is nothing short of shameful.

3. schotline - December 6, 2007

We sue when we find lead in our children’s toys; our coffee is too hot, we received less than acceptable health care et cetera. We need a few such law suits against the entrenched public education establishment that is doing a far worse injustice to our children.

This is a quality of life issue folks, it is no joking matter, we can educate our children our greatest generation and prosper as a society or suffer the consequences of a lack of jobs due to the uneducated masses where the sub-product is crime, poverty and despair.

The only choice we have is to give parents back the choice the education establishment has taken from them. Every single dollar should follow the child to any accredited school or home school process the parent chooses, it is our right.

~Jeffrey Sewell

4. Scott - December 6, 2007

One only wonders why Rex needs legislation to get this done. Pitts has allowed himself to be interjected as a political pawn in something that Rex could just dictate directly from Fort Rutledge.

The lack of requiring no choice and calling it choice is laughable. The State paper actually nailed this one.

5. The Governor's Spokesman on School Choice : The Shot! - December 6, 2007

[…] Now go check out the thoughts of the Governor’s Spokesman here. […]

6. Gal Leo - December 6, 2007

Let me get this straight…when the rubber met the road last year, and the House had a chance to vote on real choice, Pitts voted solidly in favor of allowing kids in failing schools to have the opportunity scholarships (vouchers)…and now he is “stabbing them in the back?” Seriously, FITS, you are completely off the reservation on this one.

Besides, what’s so wrong with taking some programs that work in some places and requiring other public schools — most notably failing ones — to take a look at doing the same thing?

Rex’s bill is a throwaway. It has no relation whatsoever to the real choice movement. You are falling into the same trap the educrats did last year on virtual schools, when they fought it because, in their paranoia, they thought it was pro-voucher.

Rex’s bill has nothing to do with EOS. If the real choice movement is built on such shaky foundations that it cannot survive this bill, then it was doomed to failure anyway.

Real school choice is stronger than that. It is the proper way for us to provide a way out for kids in failing schools. That was true yesterday, today, and will still be true tomorrow with or without Rex’s bill.

I am sorry to see that you buy into the all-or-nothing, our-way-or-the-highway approach to choice. It is exactly that mentality that killed EOS last year. If more level heads — such as Pitts’ — had prevailed, we would have REAL choice in failing schools RIGHT NOW.

7. upstater - December 6, 2007

“….the people most responsible for relegating generations of those very children to second-class status.”

Will, I know you and I have been round and round about this, and honest disagreement is fine. But I just don’t really think you believe the statement quoted above. Yes, yes, yes, there are problems in public education. But do you honstely think that teachers and “educrats” are more responsible than parents? I think it’s pretty apparent that the vast majority of kids in SC who’s parents are on top of things do decent-to-outstanding in school, public or otherwise. For those without parental support and involvement, we’ve got to figure some things out. But to say the system is “responsible” for the condition seems backwards.

Meanwhile, though I agree that it would be great to give poor children more options where it’s feasible, I don’t think there are too many existing private schools in SC even WILLING to try to educate the poorest, most struggling students.

Well, whatever, the sides seem pretty entrenched on this. I think there’s some reasonable middle ground. But I do not think name-calling and hyperbole help matters.

That would seem to me to go against

8. Ross Shealy - December 6, 2007

You sure have a strange definition of “sell out.”

9. schotline - December 6, 2007

I just returned from a much needed ear lowering and in the process was told by my hair dresser that her exchange student who came here from Spain [10 grader] was assessed at the start of the current semester by Richland II a ‘top tier’ public school system and was told they had no classes for her.

That given her transcripts, not even the so called honors programs at grade twelve would be enough to challenge her and or meet her current educational requirements. They the family had to enroll her a 10th grader in a local 2 year college.

I am not making this up, we were discussing the REX unplan when she volunteered it. Also stated that while she the exchange student was in school for the few day pending the evaluation of placement that she was amazed at how little work actually occurred in the classroom et cetera, et cetera…

Folks, no pun intended, but we got a BIG problem going on here in S.C.

~Jeffrey Sewell

10. upstater - December 6, 2007

As for suing public schools, as Jeffrey Sewell wants to do, several thoughts:

1. Schools are under near-constant threat of lawsuits for all sorts of stuff. It’s one reason many think it’s seemingly hard for our public schools to consistently enforce discipline and back-up their teachers. I think that argument is somewhat overblown, myself, but there is something to it.

2. What if people sued over students’ poor performance. Can you imagine the cross-examination? “So, you’re here because your kid scored Below Basic on PACT….Did you as a parent make sure your child completed homework assignments? Did you attend parent-teacher conferences? Did you read to your child before she started school?” In other words, I figure that in 99.99% of Jeffrey Sewell’s proposed lawsuits, the case would look like a total joke.

3. That said, if it can be found that there are negligent or incompetent teachers, then something needs to be done. I do not think this represents the majority of our teaching force or even close to it. But one thing I think the SCEA and others have helped create is a situation where it’s too difficult for administrators to remove lousy teachers. This needs to change, and there are many within the “education establishment” who would agree.

And Jeffrey Sewell says this: “Every single dollar should follow the child to any accredited school or home school process the parent chooses, it is our right.”

So does that mean that if the parent of a poor, struggling student in Columbia “chooses” Heathwood Hall that Heathwood Hall must take that child? Is this the parent’s right?

All in all, Jeffrey Sewell’s arguments are extremely weak. And this is a guy who’s supposed to be a GOP insider and a legitimate political player? Good grief.

11. FITSNews - December 6, 2007

Upstater (a.k.a. Baker Maultsby),

We’ll give credit to Mr. Sewell for at least putting his name on his comments.


12. upstate parent - December 6, 2007

Let’s face it. I can’t find anything in this legislation that has any teeth. If I understand it correctly, the districts don’t have to follow it. Districts can already erase the attendance lines within the districts.

What we really need to do is like Sewell said. Let the money follow the child.

Although, I think what Rex is doing is a waste of time and breath, I still like the fact that Liberals are talking about “School Choice”. I wish he would spend more time on drop out prevention and getting rid of the stupid pact test.

13. Give Me FITS - December 6, 2007

Is that Baker Maultsby? Really? The dude is a superstar. I heard him on the radio on Prairie Home Companion a couple of years ago. Outstanding. What is he doing here? He should be in Nashville.

PS: I couldn’t care less about who it really is, but the point made in part 2 of post #10 is outstanding.

14. Choice Defender - December 6, 2007

“Rex’s bill is a throwaway. It has no relation whatsoever to the real choice movement.” Oh Gal Leo. So naive. It has everything to do with that movement in that it will provide pseudo-Republicans like Gene Pinson and Skipper Perry (and now Ted Pitts) to puff out their chest and tell their constituents at election time that they voted for choice, giving them cover for not supporting a bill that actually provides choice. This has nothing to do with “the real choice movement being built on such shaky foundations … that it was doomed to failure anyway.” It’s about how deep the educrats have their hooks into some spineless legislators and providing same with cover.

15. upstater - December 6, 2007

OK, Will. Good enough.

I don’t know why you need to go there. It’s your policy to allow people to post anonymously. If you don’t want to have that policy, then fine….you can change it. If not, I don’t know why you feel that you must put someone’s name out there just because you don’t like their arguments (and I think mine are some of the most balanced you’ve gotten on this topic).

As for Jeffrey Sewell, indeed, maybe he’s courageous, as you suggest. Or maybe he figures that as a GOP mover-and-shaker it benefits him to put his name out there on this sort of thing. Good for business and image and all that. What do you think?

But whatever….

I would, however, be interested for Mr. Sewell (or you, if you’d like) to respond to or explain this line of school choice thinking: “Every single dollar should follow the child to any accredited school or home school process the parent chooses, it is our right.”

What does this mean? Sounds to me like it means parents will have the right to put their kid into ANY SCHOOL they choose, whether Heathwood Hall or Porter Gaud or Jefferson Davis Academy wants them or not. But surely it can’t be that simple….

16. Shamus O'Toole - December 6, 2007

If the proponents of “School Choice” are sincere in their efforts, they would see that Mr. Rex’s efforts are an important first step (no pun intended) in having other forms of choice in public schools.

This attitude of “Our way or No Way” is very hippocritical and it shows that choice advocates are just hacked that a Democrat is infringing on “their turf”

17. Gal Leo - December 6, 2007


I will admit to naivety from time-to-time. If you EVER thought that Skipper Perry or Gene Pinson would vote for real choice UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, then I suggest you consider doing the same.

And Pitts may be many things — but he is neither spineless, nor naive, nor afraid, nor stupid. My guess is that this doesn’t change his position on real choice one iota. Again, the two are not mutually exclusive.

It is arguments such as yours — that one choice excludes another — that prevented EOS from passing last year. Feel free to explain that to the kids in Allendale anytime you like.

PS: I have to ditto the Upstater…if Folks is going to start identifying his commentators, then it might be time for all of us to find a new blog. An apology might be in order there.

18. schotline - December 6, 2007

There is nothing easy about change but we have got to demand better and think outside the box. Having said that, we have got to understand that the lack of competition in our current public system is the real problem for the poor and the middle class, vouchers/tax credits will only serve a few, it is a start but not the end solution we need.

If our average dollars spent is 12k per year the entire amount should follow the child at the parent’s discretion period, this will change everything and give the parent(s) the dollars they need to place their child in the school best suited for the child.

The public school system would actually benefit if they thought they would lose dollars and jobs, teachers and administrators would step up if challenged by the competition of true choice.

~Jeffrey Sewell

19. Tim - December 6, 2007

I have a friend in Pitts’s district who has had fantasies about running against him for a long time. Anyone else with those kind of dreams? Please let me know…

20. Rep. Mick Mulvaney - December 6, 2007

Last year, during the heat of the debate on the governor’s veto of Rex’s “Open Enrollment” school choice bill, I received an e-mail from a local school board member. “I know I have repeatedly and adamantly opposed open enrollment,” she wrote, “but after further consideration (read: heavy influence from the Rutledge Building), I encourage you to vote to overturn the veto, as passing this bill will protect us against school vouchers.”

It was the single most absurd thing I had read about school choice/vouchers in my first year as a legislator…until this post about Ted Pitts.

In speaking approvingly of Rex’s new “school choice” bill, Ted is simply backing up what he – and I – and others – honestly stated about the bill last year: the open enrollment part was awful, but if it came back again with just the alternative education pieces (Montessori, single-gender schools), we would consider supporting it.

For me, that does nothing to undermine Ted Pitts’ conservative credentials. Here is a guy who rated 94+ on the BIPEC scorecard last year, and an above-average “C” on the flawed SC Club For Growth ratings. (He, as did I, apparently paid a heavy price for supposedly voting “for” a gas tax increase which, in reality, was a tax swap that — as I tried unsuccessfully to point out to Josh Gross — would have saved SC taxpayers millions of dollars.) He also voted solidly for educational scholarships every chance he had, even as other weaker souls were abandoning ship.

Neither does support for this bill have anything to do with the merits of the educational scholarship program. The two have no more connection than did open enrollment and vouchers, as so sheepishly suggested by my local school board member last year.

Inserting competition into the educational arena, and allowing kids in failing schools to leave – and have their money follow them — is still the best solution offered so far for educating those kids. Could you punch holes in that — there aren’t schools willing to take them, they aren’t “accountable”—? Sure you can. But not nearly the Freightliner sized holes you can punch in an educational system decimated by 40 years of monopoly/union domination.

And requiring school districts to evaluate Montesorri and single-gender programs doesn’t change that one bit.

Ted Pitts is the best kind of legislator. He is principled, but not close minded. He is well versed on issues important to him, but not a know-it-all. He is collegial and well-liked, but not afraid to speak sharply and firmly when it matters. He is, by any measure, a credit to himself, to the House, and to his constituents.

This post is, quite simply, just wrong.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney

PS: Baker Maultsby rocks. Part of me wishes that (the retiring) Doug Smith’s district was Democrat. Baker (or his good buddy Chris Story) would make admirable additions to the state Legislature. We probably wouldn’t agree on issues about 90% of the time, but gentlemen such as themselves would immediately raise the level of erudition, thought and consideration on the opposite side of the aisle. He also plays a nice guitar, which is a plus, as Don Bowen is looking for an accompanist.

21. ascots look ridiculous on anyone but royalty (they look stupid too, but who's gonna tell them?) - December 6, 2007

“Every single dollar should follow the child to any accredited school or home school process the parent chooses, it is our right.” “If our average dollars spent is 12k per year the entire amount should follow the child at the parent’s discretion period…” Jeffrey Sewell

Hey, Sewell. I don’t have kids, can I have my $12,000 to help pay off my student loans? What makes you think that parents have a “right” to that money? Why just people with children and not all taxpayers? If there is an argument that they have a “right” to direct where that money goes then I have a “right” to demand my $12,000 back for the children that I don’t have. In fact, I don’t have 5 kids; $60,000 will pay off my student loans completely. Of course, I don’t wear those ridiculous looking ascots, either. How much of my tax money do I get back for that? It’s got to be more than $12,000. Look, the police provide security for all of us. If you want an armed guard at the house you pay extra. If you don’t like the education that your child is getting at the local school and you choose to send them to a private school, you pay for it. What’s the name of that highly regraded prep school that all of the disadvantaged kids in Allendale will be attending once we have “real” school choice? How about in Dillon or Marion or Mullins?

22. ascots look ridiculous on anyone but royalty (they look stupid too, but who's gonna tell them?) - December 7, 2007

“Every single dollar should follow the child to any accredited school or home school process the parent chooses, it is our right.”

“If our average dollars spent is 12k per year the entire amount should follow the child at the parent’s discretion period…”

-Jeffrey Sewell

I’m not sure if I follow you? It seems like you are saying that parents have a right to direct where tax dollars are spent on education. If so, is it by virtue of their status as taxpayers or their status as parents? If parents have a “right” to direct where that $12,000 goes, does that mean that I have a “right” to demand a refund of my $12,000 for the child that I don’t have?

How much do I get back for not wearing an ascot? Those things look so bad, it should be a lot more than $12,000.

Everyone is afforded police protection. If you want a security system or an armed guard at your home, then you pay for it. If you are not satisfied with the education offered at the local public school and you want more for your child, then you pay for it. Most of the problems are more directly related to the parents and the home life than the opportunity offered at school. The cream always rises to the top.

By the way, what are the names of the well regarded private schools in Allendale, Marion, Mullins, Hampton, Dillon or Clarendon? Oh, there aren’t any highly regarded private schools in those places. I guess the people that will really benefit from this are folks that are already paying for private school and don’t like the fact that they pay twice for school. Get over it. Stop acting like you care about the downtrodden and dispossessed. You care about not pulling money out of your pocket to pay for private school tuition. This is about poverty. Ever wonder why the public schools in Iowa and Nebraska always crush those standardized tests? Or why they have excellent public schools?

23. Jeffrey Sewell - December 7, 2007

21 & 22, why don’t you sign your comments? And so which one of these school systems did you graduate from; Allendale, Marion, Mullins, Hampton, Dillon or Clarendon? And while we are at it, what is your solution to our education woes?

24. upstater - December 7, 2007

Hi Mick!

It would have to be Mr. Story, I’m pretty sure….but your commentary is much appreciated.

Actually, you and I may agree on more stuff than we might figure. Would love to talk with you about education issues sometime.

Merry Christmas to you and all the family!

25. Hmmmm... - December 7, 2007

First, let me say up front that this plan is stupid. Districts have to put together a plan that they can then trash. On the bright side, if they print enough copies, maybe they can give them to the schools so the kids can use the back of the paper.

Vouchers aren’t the answer either, at least not in any of the forms that have been presented. What was the last proposal — $1,200? $2,500? Let’s say it was $2,500, what does a $2,500 education look like, and would you really want that for your kid? Don’t give me the “but the parents would kick in their share” shit. If you qualify for the $2,500 voucher, you don’t have the money to kick in. And please don’t insult my intelligence by insisting that taking money out of the public schools will actually increase public school funding.

Before anyone asks, I don’t know what the answers are. But I certainly know what they aren’t.

26. Kelli Maddox (since we're being honest and open) - December 8, 2007


did you pay (or have you ever paid) $12k in taxes to the state of sc in any given tax year? i’m guessing, what with your student loan debt, you did not. nor do the vast majority of south carolinians, especially those with children. all of south carolina’s tax-paying citizens, individual and corporate, pay the price to educate south carolina’s children, however poorly that task is accomplished. public education is a hallmark of a civilized society, and it must not, can not, and will not go away.

so, the question should become, what can we do, as taxpayers, to provide a better public education to our children? i am a parent of 3 school-aged children and they are doing quite well in school. all have met or exceeded state standards (for whatever that is worth). however, more than half of their school’s population qualifies for free or reduced lunch. as many of you may know, socioeconomic status (SES) is the single greatest indicator of academic success and it is within the subsidized lunch program that the highest percentage students score “below basic” and the lowest percentage of students score “advanced.” tied to low socioeconomic status is parental participation- simply put, parents of low SES do not participate in their childrens’ education to the same extent that parents of a higher SES do. are their exceptions? of course. am i saying that no poor parent participates in her child’s education? of course not. i am saying that the majority of low SES parents do not participate to the same degree that higer SES parents do.

why does this matter, you may ask? because children have homework and projects and field trips. children, as a general rule, do as little as they can get away with. even children who are more motivated (i have one that is motivated, one that is not at all motivated, and one motivated when it strikes his fancy), it takes a parent with resolve, resources and time to assist a third or fourth grader with today’s school project. low SES parents simply may not have the resolve, resources, and time to do the job that public education requires they do. heck, i didn’t have the time when i was working full-time to make sure my kids were getting their work done, and i certainly know the value of education and their education is a priority with me. how much more difficult can it be for a single mother who is working two jobs and has twice as many children?

so how does a state like south carolina address this, what i consider to be the real problem in public education? how do we encourage and facilitate a parent’s involvement in the academic lives of her children? can it even be done? how much government do we really want? i can tell you that i don’t want that much government. so what is the solution?

(just an aside- there is absolutely no good reason to have hundreds of school districts in south carolina. each school district must support a dozen administrators, secretaries, HR people, custodial staff, and school boards, who take more trips to the beach for “conferences” than Clinton had girlfriends. this is governmental waste at its best.)

this was more long-winded than i had intended….

27. Choice Defender - December 10, 2007

“just an aside- there is absolutely no good reason to have hundreds of school districts in south carolina. each school district must support a dozen administrators, secretaries, HR people, custodial staff, and school boards, who take more trips to the beach for “conferences” than Clinton had girlfriends. this is governmental waste at its best.”

the most lucid thing on the board. rex’s plan is straight out of the soviet union playbook. i weep for my state.

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