School Choice in Horry County, South Carolina

Throughout the history of the world natural selection, or survival of the fittest, has been an integral part of nature. Those that can adapt to an ever-changing environment will survive and those that can’t will become relics studied by scientists far into the future. This indisputable law of nature doesn’t just apply to the dinosaurs America itself is based on this very principle. In a free market society those who provide innovation, quality, exceptional service or low prices will prevail over those who do not. This holds true unless someone is lucky enough to hold a monopoly over a particular product where budding competition is systematically undermined and eliminated using superior funding and market dominance. Microsoft is often accused of such practices and is vilified by those less influential in the technology sector such as Apple and Linux. I often wonder why this same intense scrutiny isn’t applied to our monopolistic educational system. Much like Microsoft who became complacent in their dominant position our public schools have little incentive to strive for improvement because there is no emerging competition that could replace them in the food chain. They can get by producing a low quality product because you the consumer have little alternative unless you can afford the far more costly private schools. If you think this is a depressing view you are right, but if you think you don’t have a choice, that’s not entirely true!

Let’s look at the Microsoft comparison again for a minute. As Microsoft became complacent others saw their chance to shove them off the lofty perch they had become so comfortable in. Apple found a new and innovative new products that revolutionized the way we interact with technology and Linux began to gain a foothold with the more technologically savvy. Microsoft is now in a position where they must produce better products at more competitive prices or like the dinosaur they will become just another fossil to be studied by those who managed to evolve. If you are like me you are now wondering why we don’t apply this same principle of competition and innovation to our school systems. If it works in nature and it works in business it is logical to assume it would work in school systems as well. This is where charter schools have the opportunity to shine. Some are providing innovative approaches to education while others are going back to the basics. Each has their merits and each of them is providing parents in Horry County with a choice.

Charter schools have been successful in many parts of the country for quite some time, but this it is a relatively new concept in the Horry County school district. Those that have been able to establish charter schools have begun to pave a long and difficult road met with resistance from every conceivable angle. While not all are improvements to the established public schools they offer parents an alternative to what is widely viewed as a failing and complacent monopoly on the education of our children. They are providing a small but growing level of competition that is beginning to force public school administrators to look at new ways to improve our their schools or they too will fall into irrelevance. For many this is a welcome sight, while others view the charter schools as a nuisance at the very least or as thieves at the most extreme. You might ask why anyone would be opposed to a parent’s right to choose where and how their children are educated. To understand this you need to understand how public and charter schools are funded.

Public school funding is based on the number of students in attendance. When a student leaves the public school system they take the money designated for them with them. When that child goes to a charter school, the charter school receives those funds. That being said, public school administrators and even some teachers believe that those schools are taking their funding. In their view this is money they alone are entitled. This fundamental belief is at the very heart of our failing school system. If you don’t have to compete then there is no incentive to innovate or improve, they are complacent in the knowledge that regardless of the product they produce the results will be the same. Charter schools provide an alternative to the lower and middle income parents who can’t afford high priced private schools. Like traditional public schools they are funded by tax dollars, not tuition fees meaning a better education is within reach to anyone who chooses to look for something better.

These schools are not exactly for everyone however. Traditionally charter schools insist on much more parental involvement than public schools would because they fundamentally believe that behind every successful student are parents or guardians that instill the value of education in their child. This can’t be done by words alone, it is only through example that our children will see that they are embarking on a journey of life-long learning that will benefit them throughout their lives. If parents don’t feel this is important enough to be more than just a spectator the child won’t either. Many point fingers at teachers saying they are the problem. While I do believe that some teachers are part of the problem, I think the majority are there because they truly care about our children and their education. Children often emulate the actions of their parents and if the parent treats school like a daycare without actively participating in the education of their child the child will as well. It is not enough to say “go do your homework”. Take an hour out of your day and work with them on it. Show them you’re as invested in their education as you want them to be.

I am a firm believer that competition in our schools is a good thing. It can only serve to force our schools to find more efficient and effective methods just as it does in business, nature and just about every other facet of our lives. The added benefit of these schools is that they help to alleviate overcrowding in the classrooms at a much lower cost. This overcrowding is often pointed to as one of the major contributing factors to the declining quality of education. Many anti-charter proponents will argue that they are bad for this very reason, only they don’t mention losing the student. Instead, their focus is losing the funding that comes with that student. However, I don’t believe that educators or public school administrators are the only problem, in fact most are extremely passionate about making their schools the best they possibly can. Parents increasingly take a hands-off approach to their child’s education placing more and more burden on schools to not just educate but to raise our children. If charter schools offer nothing else, they offer a place for like-minded parents who choose to accept the responsibility of raising their child and ask the schools to place more emphasis on teaching them. Contrary to popular opinion charter school students aren’t all gifted and the parents don’t feel they are somehow superior. They are just people, like the rest of us, hoping to see their children grow to adulthood with more opportunities than they had themselves.

People also view

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *