Sunday, Jan. 23, 2005
school bill might provide political cover
SC Statehouse Report
JAN. 23, 2005 - - Not all charter school applicants are created
Take the case of a North Charleston group that sought to
start a charter school last year. On the North Charleston
groups application cover page, it misspelled a slogan
as Becuase learning is a lifelong experience!
Before a state advisory board could consider its application,
the group withdrew it.
the misspelled word on this charter school application
But under a proposal that will be taken up in the S.C. House
of Representatives in next week, it might get easier for organizations
to become charter schools without much local input.
Charter schools are specially-licensed public schools to which
parents in some counties can choose to send their children.
These innovative schools currently have to be approved by
the state and local school boards, but operate outside the
traditional school system. They generally have more freedom
from regulations that apply to most schools.
For many, charter schools provide a public school option that
also gives parents a choice about where their kids go to school.
Currently, there are 23 charter schools in South Carolina.
Another nine or 10 are expected to open in the fall.
Under the legislative proposal that will be considered on
the House floor, local school boards may be cut out of the
loop. Lawmakers propose creating a special statewide school
district for charter schools that allows a new bureaucracy
to consider and approve whether groups should be able to start
Proponents of the measure say its needed because some
local boards are opposed to charter schools and as such, parents
in those districts dont have the options for school
choice available to them.
There seems to be a good bit of resistance of local
school districts to issue a charter, said SC Sen. Larry
Grooms, a Berkeley County Republican who is sponsoring a charter
school bill in the Senate. The House takes up a similar bill
in the coming week.
Opponents, including the state Board of Education, say the
current charter school system, started just a few years ago,
is on track to have 50 charter schools across the state in
five years - - quite a large number for a state the size of
We feel like the present system under the Charter School
Act is working, said Carolyn Donges, interim director
of the states Office of Safe Schools, which oversees
WORLD: From the archives
Power to the wealthy?
Thumbs up/down and amixed review
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Critics maintain the proposed new statewide charter school
district would create another statewide school bureaucracy.
In addition to the state Department of Education, there would
be a statewide charter school bureaucracy.
Its creating a new school system thats not
accountable to the local needs, said SC Sen. Phil Leventis,
D-Sumter. Its the antithesis of accountability.
And while advocates say administrative costs would be limited
for the new bureaucracy, its curious that one of the
prime supporters of the bill, Gov. Mark Sanford, is pushing
for more bureaucracy since hes the fellow who is supposed
to be against more government.
Scott Price, spokesman for the SC School Boards Association,
says his group has no major problem with the new charter school
initiative, except that it puts control of it under the governors
office for the first few years, instead of at the Department
What we dont like about this legislation is a
whole new oversight board, he said. We dont
feel we need to be growing government or government bureaucracy.
It looks like the House will pass the charter school bill
easily, but it might face more scrutiny in the Senate.
But what observers should really look for is an interesting
political dynamic: Will some House members and senators use
a vote for the charter school bill as a vote for school choice?
If they use this vote as a way to highlight how theyre
for school choice, it could make it tougher for Sanford to
pass his bigger school issue - - the Put Parents In
Charge school voucher proposal.
We hear many Republican and Democratic lawmakers, particularly
those that represent good school districts, are concerned
about the impact of the voucher plan. But they also want to
be for school choice. The charter bill might allow
them to have their cake and eat it too.
1/23: Let freedom
A still timely cartoon from our archives:
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1/18: Power to
To the editor:
So let me see if I understand what this Libertarian Governor
Report, 1/9) wants to do...as a Libertarian, he seeks
to reduce government and the power of government to influence
and of course intrude into the peoples private lives. Yes,
and I say amen to that, and exact approach our founding fathers
had in mind.
Except in the case of Governor Sanford, he seeks to transfer
that government power into the hands of a wealthy few, all
be them in the private sector, still to the hands of the powerful
wealthy, certainly not us run of the mill working class dudes.........
For example, one of his top advisors, and least experienced,
was Mr. Chad Walldorf, who as of the last reporting cycle
had given more than $11,000 in cash to the campaign.......hmmmmm.....you
do the math on who Sanford is trying to bring to the government
-- Sandy Gibson, Lexington, SC
SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political events from the past week:
Statehouse Report, Wilkins. We're giving ourselves
a pat on the back this week for being a possible legislative
spark. On Jan. 2, Statehouse Report said living people shouldn't
have public structures named for them. Sixteen days later,
House Speaker David Wilkins and others proposed just such
Jobs bill. The House this week approved the Jobs Creation
Act, subject of last
week's Hot Issue.
Ports, Jasper. There's a big battle brewing between
Jasper County, the SC State Ports Authority and the Georgia
Ports Authority over land in Jasper County and who will be
able to use it (if at all) to create a new port. It seems
like one big headache and a huge potential lawsuit.
Sharpe. Former state Agriculture Commissioner Charles
Sharpe cut a deal this week that led to a guilty plea related
to a cockfighting case.
Ten Commandments. Thumbs down to a Senate Finance
subcommittee that approved a measure that would allow the
Ten Commandments to be displayed on Statehouse grounds. It's
not needed and is divisive.
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