CHARLESTON — U.S. Sen. Tim Scott has the leadership style the Republican Party needs and a story that could inspire conservative education reforms in South Carolina, leaders of a think tank, launched this year by former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, said Friday.
Scott received that praise before delivering the keynote address at the Palmetto Policy Forum’s first policy summit. DeMint, a Greenville Republican and Tea Party hero, launched the group in February to tackle education, health care and other state policy issues.
That support bodes well for Scott, who faces his first statewide campaign in 2014 to keep the Senate seat. S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, a Lexington Republican, appointed Scott to replace DeMint, who resigned to become president of the Heritage Foundation.
Barry Wynn, a Spartanburg financial consultant, Policy Forum board member and friend of DeMint’s, introduced Scott as an exemplar of what the GOP should strive for in its leadership.
“(Scott) has the mind of a conservative, but he has the heart that thinks about all those who are less fortunate,” Wynn said. “That crystallizes the message that the Republicans have got to have to win in 2014 and 2016.”
Wynn said Scott offers Washington a new type of leadership that does not say “no” all the time. Instead, Wynn said, Scott says, “No, but” and then offers solutions.
The Policy Forum asked Scott to speak at the event, which focused in part on education reforms, because “we believe his story is the perfect example of why we do what we do,” said former DeMint aide Ellen Weaver, the Policy Forum’s president and chief executive.
Scott frequently draws on his experience growing up in poverty in North Charleston when speaking before audiences. On Friday, Scott told the audience of about 50 how his grandparents and mother taught him, through example, the rewards of hard work, discipline and education.
Scott said the country needs to rethink its approach to education, studying other countries where students excel and using them as models, and expanding public and private school-choice options for families, while “unleashing” capitalism and free enterprise to drive the economy.
Scott also noted challenges the nation’s education system faces.
“Sometimes we criticize the education system for producing bad results,” but some children enter the system unprepared, he said.
Helping struggling students catch up and rethinking what programs are offered in the summer months, when many students lose what they have learned, are also important, he said.
But, Scott added, he supports locally driven solutions to education problems, not a top-down approach where government intervenes “from the cradle to the grave.”
That effort starts with encouraging parents to play a larger part in educating their children, he said.
The Policy Forum is promoting private- and public-school choice options, launching a campaign to tell parents about options already available to them, including the state’s first private-school choice program for special needs students, which launches Jan. 1.
That program authorized the creation of nonprofits to help special needs students pay for private school. The General Assembly also adopted a tax credit to encourage donations to those nonprofits.
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