School choice bill passes South Carolina House

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March 30, 2007

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C.---Parents in South Carolina could soon have the power to pick their kid's school. The Open Enrollment Bill just passed the House of Representatives yesterday.

It's a struggle for a lot of families. You live in one district, but you really like the schools in the next.

If this bill becomes law, you'll be able to choose the best school for your children.

"It wouldn't have to determine where we lived if we could pick the school zone," said parent Shanna Gamache. "We'd be much happier right now."

As it is now, Shanna is stuck either sending her five-year-old to a school she doesn't like or private school. But House Bill 3124 could open up South Carolina schools to students from anywhere in the state.

"It's an unknown," said North Augusta Middle Principal Barry Head. "We haven't done it yet. So there's some anxiety there."

About how many will enroll and how that process will work, the bill says parents will let a central office know which school and why.

The final decision will be based on things like classroom space, age eligibility, and past discipline. If the board gives parents the go-ahead, students would take their current class credits to their new school.

"It provides them with one more opportunity in the public school sector, provides them with empowerment about sending kids to a school they really like," Principal Head said.

Shanna says her choice would be a school with great communication and parent involvement.

"It really differs from public school to public school. It depends on the teachers and the principal," she said.

If this bill passes, she will decide which teachers and which principal will give her son the best education.

All that could go into effect by 2009 if the bill passes the senate and gets signed by Governor Mark Sanford.

If you're wondering about transportation, that's up to you unless the individual school wants to provide a bus.

This legislation does not include private school vouchers. It only applies to public schools.

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