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Release: Voters Pull Lever For School Choice Candidates

November 6, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Contact: Neil Mellen, Communications Director
South Carolinians for Responsible Government (SCRG)
803.212.1051

Voters pull lever for School Choice Candidates

Candidates who committed themselves to instructional options and school reform won major victories at the polls this election.

In statewide races, Governor-elect Nikki Haley, Lieutenant Governor-elect Ken Ard and Superintendent-elect Mick Zais all made education access and instructional options part of their commitment to reform the state’s beleaguered public school system.

The results of the race for Superintendent of Education –an office held by staunchly anti-choice Democrats for the last twelve years– were particularly important for education voters. Mick Zais, a decorated former Army General and the architect of an academic and financial turn around at Newberry College, made educational access a defining issue in his bid for the office.

Candidate Zais argued for tax credits for parents who send their children to private schools, with priority to low-income families and families in failing school districts. He also praised the merits of corporate credits for donations that would fund tuition scholarships for low-income students. Zais recounted the success and popularity of similar programs in other states, observing that options and access spurred reform within the public system and saved money as well.

Additionally, Tommy Pope of York, Kevin Ryan of Georgetown and Peter McCoy of Charleston all defeated incumbent state lawmakers who voted against instructional options in the past.

“There is an unprecedented awareness of, and frustration with, bloating public school spending and sinking student achievement,” noted Randy Page, President of the education watchdog organization South Carolinians for Responsible Government (SCRG). “The electorate voted for leaders who are committed to tackling those problems through real School Choice.”

Data released by the State’s Budget and Control Board indicate public schools spent $12,200 per student in 2009, though only 44 cents per dollar was allocated to instruction. By contrast, the median cost of private school tuition in South Carolina for the 2010-11 school year is just $4,400 despite higher average test scores.

Page pointed to the success of bipartisan efforts in Florida, where major School Choice reforms were passed in the early 2000s. “When parents were engaged, and students given access to appropriate classrooms, student achievement and graduation rates soared; voters in South Carolina are looking for the type of turnaround here.”

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