Is School Choice a Myth?

This blog series is designed to highlight how my approach to legislating would be different than my opponent’s. A major difference we have is our stance on school  choice. She is a supporter of giving our tax dollars to private schools. I would vote against this legislation.

Jen Gibson with Students

I strongly oppose this legislation. I have a child with special needs. He attends a private school. For a time, I homeschooled him because I did not have any other suitable options. At first glance, legislation like this makes perfect sense for me and my family. It would take some of the financial burden off of us which is already significant because of what our insurance does not cover. So why would I oppose something that would make our family’s life easier? Because my deepest desire is to send my son to school with kids in our neighborhood. I want him to play tag football in the field with the other boys. I want him tearing down the street on his bike with a gang of kids. I want him doing flips off the neighborhood dock as his friends cheer him on. The reality is that my child does not fit in as easily as most kids. Without the everyday socialization that comes from attending school with his peers, he cannot create relationships with the kids in our neighborhood. 

As the mom of a child with special needs, I don’t want a tax credit to offset the expense of a private school. I want my neighborhood public school to be a school where my son will thrive.  

As a State Representative, I have to think of the big picture and what is best for our entire community. I believe focusing all of our financial resources on our public schools is best for everyone in District 99. 

School choice is a myth. Public choice, charter, and magnet schools are only an option for a select few. Admissions tests, limited classroom space, and geographical location are just a few of the many reasons that choice is only a choice for a privileged few. 

Tax credits can’t offset the entire cost of a private education. Families still have to provide additional funds and a way to transport their children to and from school. For many families, the tax credit will not be enough to facilitate a private school education. Those children will be stuck at their neighborhood public school which now has even less resources. We will see a greater disparity than ever for educational opportunities between children with access to financial resources and those who do not. 

Children thrive when their family and community are involved in their education. Taking children out of their neighborhood school prevents them from participating in extra curricular activities which provide opportunities to strengthen classroom learning. It also makes it more difficult for caregivers in low wealth environments to participate in their children’s education. These families need an easier environment to foster participation not more obstacles. 

For all the folks paying taxes that do not have children in the school system, your future depends on our kid’s success. They are your future pharmacists, nurses, hair stylists, and mechanics. Our community needs a well educated and equipped labor force. We can have a generation of young adults qualified to do a variety of jobs, or we can have a generation of young adults with a piece of paper and no skills to make a livable wage. Let’s invest in all of our futures. 

I believe creating tax credits for private education will end up costing South Carolinians more money and will result in an inferior education system. I want to get the most out of our tax dollars, and investing in our neighborhood public schools will give all of our kids the education they need at a price we can afford.