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Residents need to be aware of threat to public education

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By The Staff

I’m grateful for the recent educational forum held in the community room of the Fort Mill Library. There was standing room only.

I am a husband, a father of three grown children, all educated in the public schools of South Carolina. I’ve lived in South Carolina for 29 years.

My wife and I are retired and have lived in Fort Mill township for 13 years. We are grateful to those who built, funded and staffed the schools we attended in the 1950s-60s, and to those who built, funded and staffed the schools our children attended. Now, we want to look out for the next generation.

We heard rumors that out-of-state people have been pouring money into South Carolina legislative elections in recent years, in an attempt to undermine public funding for our public schools. It sounded unbelievable. We went to the forum.

I was shocked to learn the extent to which this is happening. It sounds like it would be illegal, but it is not illegal. The forum presenter was an expert on the phenomenon of out-of-state sponsors of South Carolina legislative candidates who will advocate state taxpayer money being used to fund vouchers for students to attend private schools or advocate tax credits for the same, which has an identical effect. He used public documents, campaign donation reports for 2006 and 2008, to illustrate how this is being done through shell corporations and other legal ways to circumvent the campaign funding laws of South Carolina.

I am not against citizens choosing to send their children to private schools. But I strongly object to public money being drawn away from public schools to help pay for private school education. That’s not right.

Both candidates for S.C. Senate Seat 16 were present at the forum.

Candidate Mick Mulvaney, a homebuilder and developer, did not dispute the presentation that documented he had received $6,000 of such out-of-state campaign donations for his election to the S.C. House two years ago from out-of-state sources lobbying to put public money into private schools through vouchers or tax credits. And he did not promise to refuse this stream of campaign donation in his current campaign.

Candidate Mandy Powers Norrell said she refuses to accept campaign donations from such out-of-state donors. A graduate of South Carolina public schools herself, an attorney, and a mother of children in public schools, Mrs Norrell affirmed that her top priority in the S.C. Senate will be to strengthen the funding base for our public schools and to strongly oppose this effort to divert South Carolina public tax money away from public schools and into private schools.

We learned in the forum that the coordinator and primary bankroller of this strategy, expressed through a myriad of related shell corporations, is a New York multi-millionaire named Howard Rich – his real name.

Why is Mr. Rich doing this? We learned that he is a Libertarian who believes state and national government should be reduced as close to zero as possible. A large part of state government, constitutionally, must support public education. He believes all K-12 education should be operated by private business.

I believe it’s crucial for all South Carolinians to understand this growing and bizarre threat to public education for all citizens. It carries the potential to undermine the committed teachers, aides and administrators, who are working hard in our public schools to strengthen the growth and development of children and grandchildren of all citizens.

If you want to learn more about this devious strategy to undermine public funding for public education, to target several states including our own, I invite you to visit stophowardrichsc.blogspot.com.

Art Gatewood is a Fort Mill resident.