School choice: tried, proven

Published in the January 26, 2009 edition of the Georgetown Times

Last Monday the Times ran a vitriolic guest editorial by former Georgetown County Democratic Party Chair Jamie Sanderson.

Mr. Sanderson did not mince words when he personally attacked a former State House candidate and myself for our outspoken commitment to policies of school choice in South Carolina.

I stand by my position and that of both the state and Georgetown County Republican Party platforms.

School Choice, the way to put decisions about children's futures back in the hands of parents, is tried and proven. Since 2002, over $2 billion in public money has been spent by the state on HOPE, LIFE and Palmetto Fellows Scholarships. The students and families who receive these awards are free to attend the South Carolina college or technical school of their choice; public or private. Lawmakers and taxpayers agreed that our state needs college graduates and decided that a school choice model would be more effective than a one-size-fits-all government monopoly.

They made the right choice.

South Carolina families also support school choice for young children. When the "Corridor of Shame" trial concluded, the judge told lawmakers that expanding access to early childhood education was part of their mandate. Lawmakers know that middle and higher income families already send their children to pre-kindergarten so they decided to expand access to low-income parents through the First Steps/ ABC school choice program. Like the HOPE, LIFE and Palmetto Fellows scholarships, the prekindergarten program is popular with parents and demand grows every year.

Still certain politicians and bureaucrats are working to block school choice for elementary and high school students. In the case of Mr. Sanderson, he is even trying to discredit the philanthropists and activists who lend support to candidates who speak out for change. School choice for K-12 students now exists in 14 states and the District of Columbia. It has proven to save public schools money, improve student test scores and increase parental satisfaction. If these are the controversial "values" and "agendas" that Mr. Sanderson is accusing me and Republican candidates of supporting, then we plead guilty as charged.

Tom Swatzel
Murrells Inlet

Mr. Swatzel is chairman of the Georgetown County Republican Party