Out of Control Policy Blog

Gov. Sanford Defends Charter Schools Against Public School Bullying

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford has been on a tear recently defending markets and competition, and yesterday's Greenville News offered yet another example of why his stock is rapidly rising in the free market movement:

Gov. Mark Sanford, distressed over news that Greenville County Schools barred charter schools from recruiting in district schools, has asked state Superintendent Jim Rex to "use your position in whatever way you can" to help parents get information.

Citing a story in The Greenville News last week, Sanford wrote to Rex, "I find it baffling that any public school in this state would seek to limit students' and parents' access to information to what other public schools provide.

"Frankly, such an incident could fuel skeptics' claims that public school choice alone would not make an impact on educational outcomes in this state, given the fact that as demonstrated here the fox is guarding the hen house."

[. . .] Sanford wrote that he became concerned after reading the story in The News that reported that the three charter high schools that operate in cooperation with Greenville Technical College had been "uninvited" from events in middle schools at which the district's magnet high schools pitch their programs.

"Knowing your support of public school choice generally, and charter schools specifically, I hope that you will do whatever you can to make sure this decision is both reversed and not repeated in other school districts across the state," Sanford wrote.

[. . .] Sanford, who supports giving parents the option of a publicly funded private school education for their children, called it "a great shame" that "an incredible limitation has been placed upon the students' ability to hear about the impressive program that the Greenville Tech Charter School has to offer."

The school had a 98 percent graduation rate last year, with two-thirds of its graduates earning at least 15 hours of college credit along the way, according to school figures.

In e-mails earlier this year to principals and guidance counselors, district administrators addressed the issue.

"Our schools are not to invite charter schools to our meetings with students, parents, etc.," wrote Laura Herd, a liaison with charter schools for the district. "In other words, our district staff and schools do not assist them in their efforts to recruit students."

LaBarbara Sampson, the district's director of guidance, wrote to counselors, "Our schools are not to be used for the recruitment efforts of the charter schools. If a parent needs/wants to find out about a particular charter school, they can get all the information on that school from the school's Web site."

There's no small amount of irony in the district's charter school "liaison" being one of the main antagonists trying to thwart the charters. Some liaison. Kudos to Gov. Sanford for standing against this sort of public school monopoly establishment bullying.

Speaking of charter schools, in case you missed it, Reason's Innovators in Action 2008 featured an article by BASIS Schools founder Olga Block that's a must-read. When starting the first BASIS charter school in Tucson, AZ a decade ago, Olga and her husband Michael set out to create one of the best schools in the country and developed an innovative model for doing so. In May 2008, Newsweek ranked BASIS Tucson the #1 public high school in the nation.

» Reason's Innovators in Action 2008
» Reason's Education Research and Commentary

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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