Tim Scott: ‘When the Parents Have a Choice, the Kids Have a Chance’

by Katherine Connell

South Carolina senator Tim Scott made a case at CPAC this morning for his opportunity agenda and school choice by speaking about his own struggles in school, noting that he was not a good student. “I failed civics: I used to think I was the only one, then I became a member of the Senate and I realized there might be a few more,” he said to laughs from the audience.

Then he met a mentor, a Chick-fil-A manager (“I call ’em freedom fries!” Scott said) who taught him that “you can think your way out of poverty: If you really want to escape poverty it comes through the power of education.”

“Kids, not unions, should be the focus of our public education,” Scott said, and parents should be free to choose what is best for their child: “When the parents have a choice, the kids have a chance,” he said to applause.

But not everyone wants to or should go to college, he said, a line that went over well with the crowd. Instead, he called for a dual track: “One for college, one for the skills necessary to fill the 4 million vacancies,” he said, referring to jobs that are currently open but for which many of the unemployed are not qualified.

With Senator Lamar Alexander, Scott is a co-sponsor of the Choice Act, legislation that would redirect some federal education spending toward school vouchers.

Scott was swept into the House on the 2010 midterm wave of tea-party enthusiasm and was appointed by Governor Nikki Haley to replace retiring senator Jim DeMint in 2013. He is running in a special election this year for the final two years in DeMint’s term.