Palmetto Pandemonium

Last week Eduwonk highlighted a dispute about proposed improvements to the charter school law in South Carolina. Oddly, this is not a dispute among charter proponents and opponents, that’s old news…instead this dispute is among charter supporters. The issue is whether the proposed law — expanding charter schooling in SC but holding school districts harmless for local revenue loss if students choose public charter schools instead of the traditional schools — is worth passing . Eduwonk, the Charter School Leadership Council, and other charter school supporters say yes. The Center for Education Reform (CER) says no, they explain their position here.

CER strongly implies that charter school leader and Education/Evolving co-founder Ted Kolderie would oppose the SC plan because it runs contrary to the “intent” of charter schooling. Kolderie is an important and insightful thinker and his would be a serious objection worth heeding…except Eduwonk checked in with Kolderie and he thinks the SC plan, while not ideal, is pretty good and ought to be passed.

A SC insider and senior state official wrote Eduwonk over the weekend to say:

It has been rather traumatic to deal with criticisms of our bill from both sides. I am assuring public school supporters on one side that this bill won’t be the destruction of public education — wait a minute, we have a 51% graduation rate in our state, what is there to destroy? — while on the other side I am assuring charter school proponents that this won’t destroy the charter school movement in our nation.

And wrote back today:

The SC State Dept of Ed is circulating the CER advisory to charter schools in our state. When the defenders of the status quo use your statement to defeat legislation, you know you have left the reservation.

Bear in mind, this is not a double-funding scheme where the state pays twice but rather just a plan where local school districts don’t lose local property tax dollars (about 30 percent of the per pupil expenditure in SC) if students choose charter schools. As Eduwonk said the other day, all else equal, integrated financing schemes are preferable but all else is rarely equal and the perfect should not be the enemy of the good.

For friends of charter schools there is just not a good reason to oppose this bill.

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