School choice debate continues

COLUMBIA (WACH, AP) -- The latest proposal to help parents send their children to private school failed on a 6-10 vote Wednesday in the Senate Education Committee.

We have to have some alternatives. Give the child the power to determine their future, says Lyndon Jagen, director of Daniel TMs Christian School in Downtown Columbia.

Jagen is in favor of the bill which would give tax credits to parents who send their students to private schools.

There are a lot of kids in my school right now that wish they could afford the tuition and they can't, Jagen adds.

But Jagen doesn't turn any students away. He provides scholarships to those in need and is hoping lawmakers will one day vote to do the same.

The proposal would also provide for credits for parents who home-school their children. They could receive up to a $1,000 to offset supply costs. Students qualifying for either Medicaid or free/reduced lunch could get scholarships to pay for private school tuition. Businesses and people who donate to those scholarships, in return, receive tax credits.

According to President Jackie Hicks of the South Carolina Education Association, the measure would be detrimental to cash-strapped public schools.

In the past several years, state funding for education has been cut by some $700 million.

Any time you take out of a classroom, you are taking resources out, says Hicks, and it makes it harder on the school district to meet the needs of those children there.

State budget advisers expected the plan to cost the state $133 million annually when all students would be eligible in 2023-24. Its cumulative loss to state revenue over 13 years

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Supporters discount the state's report as inaccurate. They think more students would transfer from public school, saving the state money.

A similar bill is moving through the House. Last Wednesday, a House panel voted 3-0 to advance the proposal. It moves on to the full Ways and Means Committee for debate.

What do you think about the school choice bill? Would the plan cost more in the end or be a money saving effort for the state in education? Vote in the poll below and leave a comment to weigh in.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)