SC school-choice advocates share options with families

jself@thestate.comOctober 24, 2013 

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    School choice in S.C.

    The Palmetto Policy Forum has published a catalog of existing public and private school-choice options available to parents. For more information or to get a copy, go to or call (803) 708-0673.

About 25,000 S.C. families soon will get a catalog in the mail with information about the various public and private-school choice options available to them.

The catalog’s purpose is to educate families about the education options available to them through public and private schools and homeschooling, and inform state lawmakers about school-choice programs, according to its publisher, the Palmetto Policy Forum, a conservative group launched by former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint in February.

“When education is customized to the needs of the individual child, everyone benefits,” said Ellen Weaver, Palmetto Policy Forum president, at an announcement Thursday at Midlands Middle College in Columbia.

Located on the airport campus of Midlands Technical College in West Columbia, Midlands Middle College is an 11th- and 12th-grade school in the state’s Public Charter School District, considered a form of school choice within the public-school system.

Called “Empowering Students: Education Options for South Carolina Families,” the catalog is available in print or online at the Policy Forum’s website. The catalog has information about the state’s public charter schools, online schools, private schools and home-schooling. Accompanying each section is a story about a S.C. family that chose one of the alternative options because, they said, public school was lacking in some way.

Public schools already offer many options, said Jackie Hicks, president of the S.C. Education Association, which opposes the state creating more private-school choice programs that could shift tax revenue to private schools. “We have to look at what we have available to us in the public school system.”

The push to spread the word about school-choice options is happening at the same time as the state rolls out its first private-school choice program, adopted this year.

Starting in January, newly formed nonprofits can start accepting donations for scholarships to help special-needs students pay private-school tuition. To encourage donations, the state will offer tax credits for those donations.

Joining Weaver Thursday were other supporters of a statewide expansion of private- and public-school choice options for families with K-12 students, including state schools superintendent Mick Zais.

Students at risk of failure in traditional public schools have found success at Midlands Middle College, Zais said. “Small classrooms, individualized attention,” a later starting time for classes that benefits students who work and teachers available to help students at all hours have made the program a success, he added.

Reach Self at (803) 771-8658.

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