To be conservative is to resist change and to advocate for keeping things as they are.
In South Carolina, with its long history of conservative politics, culture, and religion, that means keeping the complaints the same (public education is failing) and keeping the solutions the same (disregarding that these solutions neither match the problems nor have worked in any way over the last thirty-plus years).
So here we go again, reported by Anna Lee at The Greenville News:
Greenville County legislators vowing to make education reform a top priority on Tuesday publicized an education agenda from the conservative Palmetto Promise Institute.
The Help Our Pupils Excel plan would reformat the state’s education system by addressing “root problems in finance structure, accountability and equity of opportunity for our rural schools,” members of the Greenville County House Delegation said in a letter to House Speaker Jay Lucas.
Lee outlines the reform plan as the following:
- Streamline and fix South Carolina’s education funding formula. The current formula is overly complex, according to the Palmetto Promise Institute, and “research shows that there is zero connection between how money is spent and actual student costs.”
- Cut bureaucracy and consolidate small and shrinking school districts with less than 2,500 students. These districts “simply must be incentivized or compelled to consolidate,” the institute said.
- Provide more education options for parents and students. The plan calls for expanding VirtualSC, the state’s online public learning program, and to create education scholarship accounts, which would give parents direct access to their child’s state student funding formula. Parents could spend the money on approved services their child needs, such as therapy or tutoring, according to the institute.
- Support teachers. The H.O.P.E. plan calls for more pay flexibility for districts to reward and retain teachers “based on talent and effectiveness, rather than only years-in-service or degrees.”
However, if you search the origin of this plan at the Palmetto Promise Institute, here are the eight grounding proposals:
- Let the Education Finance Act (EFA) work.
- Equitably fund all forms of public education [Note: charter schools are specifically identified.].
- Expand & codify exceptional needs scholarships & credits [“private school choice programs”].
- Enact Education Savings Accounts (ESAs).
- Unleash more online options.
- Create true public school open/option enrollment.
- Establish an Achievement School District (ASD).
- Incent excellence in teaching & school leadership. (Headings taken from Fast facts PDF)
While the headline repeats the refrain of the think tank, “bold,” the truth is that this plan is warmed over conservative ideology that has failed public education again and again.
Most of the reforms are just elements of school choice, charter school advocacy, and school takeover schemes (achievement districts)—each of which has been thoroughly discredited by research (the one element that apparently must be avoided in order to be “bold”).
Below is a reader, then, discrediting this plan, yet again, as baseless conservative ideology that is poised to exploit and further fail public education in South Carolina—not offer our students and our communities the equity of opportunity all people deserve in a free society:
- Consolidation of Schools and Districts: What the Research Says and What it Means
- The Realities of K-12 Virtual Education
- An Open Secret: The Problems with Virtual Schools
- Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2017
- How School Privatization Opens the Door for Discrimination
- Research-Based Options for Education Policymaking – 2016 Collection
- Answer Sheet: Can Charter Schools Be Reformed? Should They Be?
- Investing In What Works, Leigh Dingerson, et al. (Southern Education Foundation)
- State Takeovers of Low-Performing Schools: A Record of Academic Failure, Financial Mismanagement & Student Harm
- Whose Choice? Student Experiences and Outcomes in the New Orleans School Marketplace, Frank Adamson, Channa Cook-Harvey, and Linda Darling-Hammond
- Connecting Dots of ASD Advocacy: Don’t Buy It
- A Failing Grade for K-12 State Takeovers, Kent McGuire, Katherine Dunn, Kate Shaw, and Adam Schott
In short, this so-called “bold” reform plan is nothing new. It is the same old mantra of pet conservative political projects SC and the entire nation have suffered under since the early 1980s.
For example, at the heart of the school choice advocacy, charter schools are no better, and often worse, than traditional public schools. Private schools (driven entirely by choice) are also no better than public schools.
Yet, charter schools and private schools contribute significantly to segregation and inequity—both of which are key sources of problems in public schooling in SC.
Broadly, school takeovers (achievement districts, etc.) and school choice create a great deal of churn, but have failed badly the promises made by conservative politicians.
Regretfully, this bogus plan has proven my recent prediction accurate; especially in SC, conservative politicians are doggedly bound to pointing fingers at the same problems, ones they themselves have allowed to fester and even made worse by repackaging and offering again and again failed conservative ideology as solutions in the form of a Trojan Horse named, this time, “bold.”