Scott scounds the charge for school choice

  • Posted: Thursday, March 13, 2014 12:01 a.m.

Last week's Conservative Political Action Conference predictably generated considerable coverage of Republican divisions and their implications for not just this year's congressional elections but the 2016 White House race.

But while addresses by potential presidential candidates drew ample attention at that event in National Harbor, Md., it also featured this persuasive assertion from a stirring speech by South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott: "When the parents have a choice, the kids have a chance."

And when Sen. Scott pitches the importance of helping young people through school choice, he often cites his own learning experience as a ninth-grader at North Charleston's Stall High School.

As he told the CPAC audience: "I was a poor kid growing up in a single parent household. I was losing myself. I had lost my way."

Yet with the timely help of John Moniz (the Chick-fil-A proprietor who became his mentor) and other adults, he made his way back from the brink of flunking out to graduating from Stall and Baptist College (now Charleston Southern University). Mr. Scott then became a successful businessman, Charleston County councilman and chairman, S.C. House member and U.S. House member.

And now that once-struggling high school freshman is our freshman U.S. senator.

In his speech, Sen. Scott said of Mr. Moniz: "That Citadel graduate taught me that if you really want to escape poverty, it comes through the power of education."

Sen. Scott, as part of his "Opportunity Agenda" legislative package, seeks to advance the powerful benefits of expanded educational options. Those include charter schools, which are public schools governed by boards that operate under a governing charter with specific goals but with wide independence from district administrators. Many charter schools have reached - and exceeded - those goals, increasing access to high-quality education in the learning process.

Sen. Scott correctly told CPAC: "We need to set free all of the potential in our kids in our country, through school choice."

No, charter schools and other choice initiatives can't cure all that ails U.S. public education. And students whose parents show little or no interest in their learning will still be at a cruel disadvantage.

However, school choice does encourage parental involvement.

Unfortunately, though, some elected officials and educational administrators remain reflexively opposed to school choice. For instance, new New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is pushing deep funding cuts for, and even the elimination of some, charter schools.

But even some of his fellow Democrats are rallying to the defense of New York charter schools. Among them is New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who said on a radio show Monday, "A failing public education system, I think, is the civil rights issue of our day," adding, "What charter schools say is, 'Maybe we should try something new. Maybe a little creativity, maybe a little innovation.' "

And maybe Sen. Scott is emerging as an effective, high-profile advocate for an uplifting cause - school choice - that should transcend partisan divisions.

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