My name is Joshua Phillips. I am a 10th grade student that recently had the privilege of shadowing Senator Bryant for a day. While in Columbia, I read and analyzed a bill that was being brought before the finance committee that afternoon. The bill calls for appropriating funds to pay for “at risk” students’ attendance in full day, four-year-old kindergarten. The program would allow the funding to apply to private, as well as public schools. A number of problems exist within this bill.
First, there are presently fully funded public four-year-old kindergartens for “at risk” students. The impetus behind the bill is obviously not to give at risk children a chance to participate in four-old-kindergarten, for a system is already in place that provides this service. The bill actually creates a voucher program allowing four-year-olds to attend private schools at the state’s expense. This could cause trouble for the private schools who accept the funding. Under Section 59-35-390 of the bill, schools that accept the funding must relinquish control over the curriculum and follow the guidelines set by the First Steps state educational program. In addition, all instructors must be state certified and selected. The bill seems to promote educational choice, but in reality, it only allows the government to expand its influence further into private education. Finally, funding the bill would cost the state a massive amount of money. The finance committee estimated that the cost of implementing the bill could total as much as $185 million.
If the bill is passed, private schools may be lured into accepting the funding, only to have increased government authority over their system. Under the guise of educational choice,the bill would increase governmental authority and involvement in education.