Sound Off

School Choice is On the Rise

Plus: South Carolina Has Not Progressed; Yes, the South Seceded over Slavery

By Free Times Readers
Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The purpose of this letter is to respond to your Feb. 26 cover story, “The Year of Education,” by Porter Barron, Jr. While I certainly agree that a legislative focus on public education is critical for the Palmetto State, the assertion that the school choice movement is losing steam is simply wrong. It’s just changing — and for the better. This is exemplified by the explosive growth of public charter schools in South Carolina and the extensive waiting lists for admission to them.

South Carolina parents and students now have more choices than ever. Options include traditional, charter, online, magnet, single-gender, Montessori, arts-infused, math- and science-focused, year-round, military and career-focused schools. These are all public schools with public school students.

In fact, according to the National Charter Schools Association, South Carolina has moved from 25th in the nation to 12th in its support of public charter schools. All of the state’s 59 charter schools are run by local boards. And another 10 are scheduled to open next year.

The new school choice movement reaches far beyond the type of school a child attends. It encompasses personalized education on every level. School choice means kids have the choice to engage in online learning in the classroom. It means virtual education options are available, and students can work toward a high school diploma at their own pace. It also means schools and districts improve and expand career and technical course offerings for interested students.

Another example of expanded school choice, as Barron correctly points out, are the scholarships available to special needs students so they can attend schools better equipped to provide for their unique requirements.

Despite these gains, far too many low-income students are stuck in perennially failing schools, with no escape and no options, where ZIP code is destiny.
My stance on school choice is well known. I’ve consistently argued that our one-size-fits-all system does not serve all students because it ignores profound individual differences, puts every child in the same classroom, and expects them to learn the same material, on the same schedule, in pretty much the same way. We must transform this antiquated model.

My vision for South Carolina’s public education system puts the interest of parents and students first by providing every parent and child the opportunity to choose the curriculum and school that best fits the needs, abilities and aspirations of the student.

I can assure you the topic of school choice will be around for years to come. Personalized education is the wave of the future and I’m excited to be part of the revolution.

Mick Zais
S.C. Superintendent of Education

South Carolina Has Not Progressed

I grew up in Simpsonville, S.C., and attended Hillcrest High School from 7th to 12th grade (1962-1967). I can almost bet that I had the book in question, Mary Simms Oliphant’s The History of South Carolina.  Because both my parents were from New York and became South Carolina transplants during the 1950s, my view of the South was not always in sync with what I learned in school or what my friends learned at home.

My sister-in-law, who lives in Greenville, S.C., sent the “Take Tillman Down” article to me and my wife last week (Cover story, March 5). Boy, was it an eye opener. All I can say is that South Carolina has not progressed that much since the 1950s and ‘60s. The governor and the GOP-ruled legislature live in the past, judging by their efforts to suppress or stop black South Carolina residents from voting.   

I agree with Will Moredock. It is time to take the Tillman statue down.  

Robert J. Wiebel
Melbourne, Fla.

Yes, the South Seceded over Slavery

How nice of Mr. Harley to set the record straight for all those “bleeding heart liberals” regarding “Southern history” (Sound Off, “I Don’t Care for Tillman, But Liberals Are Still Idiots,” March 19). In his view, it is apparently acceptable to wipe out slavery from history as well.

Just to set the record straight for Mr. Harley, the South was part of the United States of America until it decided to secede over what? Yes, Mr. Harley — slavery. And the South wasn’t “invaded” until your precious secessionists fired on a United States military facility in Charleston harbor. You seem to subscribe to the Fox News philosophy of, “If I say it, it’s a fact. If you don’t agree, you’re an unpatriotic idiot.”

Maybe the next time you’re waving the Stars and Bars, you can take one second to remember that like it or not, we are one country. Always have been, always will be.

By the way, do you use the interstate? Are you expecting Social Security checks when you retire? Have you ever been arrested for your views? Have you ever needed disaster relief?

Thank the very government you hate so much.

Sam Lawler

Editor’s note: The James Harley who wrote last week’s letter is not the same James Harley who covers theater and sports for Free Times.

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S.C. Sen. Tom Young tells Free Times he was not pressured to go easy on Gov. Nikki Haley in his investigation of the S.C. Department of Social Services, as several sources told Free Times he had been (“Sources: Feds Probe DSS; Cover-Up Alleged,” March 19). Young did not respond directly to requests for comment before publication, but did submit a statement to Free Times ; he says he received only one request for comment.

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