More than three decades ago, Tim Scott was a ninth-grader flunking multiple subjects at Stall High School.
Today he’s a U.S. senator.
And drawing from his own learning experiences as a child raised by a single mother on a low income, he is an ardent advocate for expanded educational opportunities.
The senator, like many of his fellow conservatives, remains rightly wary of costly big-government proposals that supposedly will solve America’s education woes.
But he also knows that better schools represent “a chance for us to change the outcome for America.”
And in a recent visit to this newspaper, he hailed Charleston’s Meeting Street Academy as an example of educational innovation that works.
The private (and privately funded) school, which opened for 3- and 4-year-olds in 2008 on King Street and moved to Meeting Street last year, has achieved impressive academic results with a student body that now ranges from 3 years old through the third grade.
Families who otherwise couldn’t afford a private-school education pay a mere $2 per day in tuition, plus $1 for after-school care.
In addition to that small monetary price, though, families must contribute an active role in their children’s education for them to remain enrolled.
Sen. Scott spoke highly of the school’s staff — and fondly of his own visits there.
While he accurately stressed the importance of early education, he’s not fully on board with President Barack Obama’s government-heavy initiative on that front.
As the senator told us: “Part of the solution for early education has to be non-profits and churches.”
Sen. Scott also is a school choice fan, though he acknowledges the problems faced by struggling schools when their best students choose to leave:
“I struggle with it. But should we trap kids in failing schools because we don’t want the schools to get worse?”
No, we shouldn’t.
Nor should we ignore the sad reality that far too many U.S. parents simply won’t participate in their children’s education.
This creates a cruel shortcoming that those kids — and our nation — must somehow overcome.
Unfortunately, more government spending alone can’t turn around failing schools. Indeed, some school districts that rank among the highest in the nation in per-student spending continue to produce dismal classroom outcomes.
That doesn’t mean some schools don’t desperately need more money.
It does mean, however, that inefficient use of education funding is an especially expensive blunder.
It also means that education innovation, including school choice, is a vital cause.
Mr. Scott is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. He’s working with fellow Senate rookie Chris Murphy — the Connecticut Democrat who replaced the retiring Joe Lieberman in January — to boost charter schools.
Because regardless of party affiliation, all Americans should know that improving U.S. education is a practical, economic — and even a moral — imperative.
And as a Stall High (and Charleston Southern University) graduate learned long ago, when adults help turn a kid away from the dropout path, remarkable outcomes are possible.