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School choice not the answer

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The S.C. House of Representatives have before them House Bill 3407 for debate.  This bill is labeled the Educational Opportunity Act. It is intended to offer tax credits to parents who send their children to private schools.
Year after year, we hear how our public schools waste money and students do not perform up to expectations. Seldom is credit given to that classroom teacher who works very hard, but for various reasons cannot accomplish the results desired. In public schools, a teacher learns readily that man was not created equal. To one a single talent, to another two and to others many, but yet the teacher must teach them all.
If parents are looking for a utopia for their child or children to attend school, where is it? Students who perform at grade level or above in private school would do the same in a public school.
Parents should visit their child’s public school and see firsthand what is being offered versus the possibility of what the private school has to offer. They would never think twice unless, as in some cases, parents welcome the Christian atmosphere or small class sizes. In other cases, some sort of grudge has arisen.
Where do private schools get their faculty? Usually, they have very little experience and in some cases are not certified to teach certain critical needs areas of curriculum. Some Christian schools across our state may use the church’s minister as principal. This does not mean they do a poor job, but in most cases, they are not fully prepared for “double hat” duty.
When parents stop to think about the advantages being offered in our public schools, they cannot help but see the private sector cannot compete. For example, public schools offer libraries, science labs, fine arts, marching band, etc. Facilities in general are much better in public schools, such as gyms and special work areas to prepare students for the world of work.
The public schools of South Carolina struggle each year to make ends meet. Every governor enjoys talking about being an “education governor,” but none have amounted to a row of beans since Gov. Dick Riley.
For the House of Representatives to think H3407 will save money and help the students of South Carolina is foolish! For example, if a history class in public school has 30 students and 10 go to private school, you still must have that teacher with the same expense. On the other side of the coin, if a number of students desire to leave public school for private – where will the private school put them? In most cases, their campuses are very limited in size.
The bottom line is that parents who send their children to private school see an opportunity to get by without having to pay tuition if this bill passes. It will do nothing but harm our public schools to support private schools.
Private schools seem to be happy doing their thing. We have never known a private school to encourage students to leave a traditional setting to attend theirs.
To our House members, Deborah Long and Jimmy Neal, we know you will look long at this bill because it is fiscally foolish.
If you really desire to save money, consider private contractors to handle our student busing. Consider longer school days with shorter semesters. The same work can be covered in 170 days rather than 185.  Consider consolidating central office personnel. Cut testing! It costs, plus it takes away classroom time. Last, but certainly not least, study how to conserve energy. Do not burn stadium lights when not in use. Practice team sports during the daytime and not under the lights at night.
Lancaster County has a fine public school system. Let’s work to keep it that way.

Indian Land resident Bennett Gunter is the
former superintendent of Indian Land schools.