That’s right. Incoming chairwoman Kristin Maguire doesn’t think South Carolina’s public schools are right for her own kids.
The reactions to Maguire’s election from the local public school establishmentarians suggest that they’re a bit nervous about having a chairwoman who won’t toe their narrow line. “While she does read the material and come prepared, she represents an extreme, right‐wing view,” warned former State Education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum. “She looks at every decision by the board through a right‐wing lens.”
South Carolina Democratic Party chairwoman Carol Fowler was less politic — if that’s possible — than Tenenbaum. “Having Kristin Maguire chair the Board of Education is akin to Dick Cheney teaching a gun safety course,” Fowler zinged. “What does a woman who home‐schools her four children know about South Carolina public schools?”
The answer to Fowler’s question is probably “quite a lot.” At the very least, Maguire — who attended public schools herself and has one parent who was a public school teacher — knows enough about the public schools that, on top of the taxes she pays to support them, she’s willing to bear the cost of homeschooling for her own children.
It’s no secret that many Palmetto State public schools are woeful. Only about a third of South Carolina’s fourth‐ and eighth‐graders are “proficient” in mathematics according to the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress — the so‐called “Nation’s Report Card” — and only about a quarter are proficient in reading.
Then there’s the state’s graduation rate. Estimates differ, but several recent analyses suggest that only around 50 percent of South Carolina students graduate high school with a regular diploma in four years, the worst rate in the nation.
Perhaps it’s this poor academic performance that’s made the state a major school‐choice battleground, though reformers have so far been stymied. The most painful setback came in 2005, when by a vote of 60–53 the state House of Representatives killed a bill that would have provided maximum tax breaks of about $3,700 for parents who paid for private schools.