Portrait of Ron DeSantis

DeSantis Campaign Press Release - Nikki Haley's Failed Education Record and Flip-Flops on School Choice

January 10, 2024

Nikki Haley claims to support school choice, but her record as a state legislator and governor of South Carolina reveals the opposite. Instead of delivering on her campaign promises to help families send their children to the schools of their choice, Haley caved to the teacher's union and poured more money into failing government schools.

Because Haley rewarded a failed system instead of providing real choice to parents, South Carolina's education ranking was abysmal – dead last in the nation – at the end of her time as governor.

  • In 2017, when Haley left office, South Carolina ranked dead last (#50) in the nation on education [US News and World Report]
  • If Nikki Haley could not get school choice in a conservative state like South Carolina, how can we trust her to do it anywhere?
  • In fact, South Carolina could have had Statewide Open Enrollment School Choice like Florida does, as far back as 2007, but Nikki Haley got in the way.
    • In 2007, the SC House passed H 3124 - Open Enrollment and School Choice. Nikki Haley, then a state representative, joined Democrats in voting against School Choice.
    • After the bill passed in spite of Haley's efforts, Governor Mark Sanford vetoed the bill. State legislators attempted to override the veto, but Haley alongside Democrats voted against the veto override, which ultimately failed.
    • Here are highlights of H-3124 that Haley stood against:
    • Defines school district choice programs as including public magnet and charter schools, single-gender programs, extended school year programs, virtual schooling programs, arts programs, and other such options, and provides parents with significant influence in assigning their students to these programs
    • Requires statewide open enrollment beginning with the 2009-2010 school year, and requires each school district to provide an optional elementary, middle and high school program for students by the 2008-2009 school year
  • While running for governor in 2010, Haley claimed to support school choice in the primary, then backed away in the general.
    • Cato Institute, 8/31/2010: Haley has recently put out some concerning and confusing statements on school choice. Haley said approving private? school choice, which would provide tax credits or vouchers to pay private? school tuition, was not a priority. 'That is not my focus; my focus is the school funding formula,' Haley said.
    • After being elected governor, Haley did little to nothing for school choice and gave noncommittal responses when asked about it, e.g.: "It's not going to be something that's a fix it in one year. It's a 7 to 10 year approach to where we need to go in South Carolina to bring education to a whole new level and it's going to be inclusive of everybody." (Haley on WISTV, August 2013)
  • In 2014, then-Governor Haley earned praise from Democrats and even the head of the South Carolina teachers union for her education "reforms" -- which poured taxpayer dollars into failing public schools but did not meaningfully expand school choice or improve student outcomes.
  • Democrat politicians and the head of the state teachers' union praised Haley's anti-school choice plan:
    • "Gov. Nikki Haley's proposal to improve public schools by focusing on poor, rural students — and to start a multi-year effort with a $160 million investment — stunned educators and legislators of both parties, who applaud what they consider her about-face on education."
    • "I'm excited about it. I hope this is going to get a positive discussion going," said Kathy Maness, director of the Palmetto State Teachers Association. "I do think the governor is sincere in the initiatives she laid out."
    • "Absent from Haley's plan was any mention of vouchers or tax credits for private education."
    • "Haley said her plan spends 20 percent more on children who qualify for free- and reduced-price meals as well as 20 percent more on children whose primary language isn't English. Democrats in the Statehouse have long advocated for such a weighting as a way to help the neediest students succeed. "I welcome the governor to the club," said Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg. Ordinarily one of Haley's chief critics, Hutto said he invites Haley to take the lead in pushing the idea through the Republican-controlled Legislature." [AP, 1/11/2014]
  • School choice advocates criticized Haley's plan:
    • "The governor's new plan is consistent with most education improvement plans introduced in South Carolina in recent decades: it ignores the single most effective reform that could be enacted, school choice."
    • "The plan does include a small increase in spending on public charter schools, but the amount is trivial compared to the proposed spending increases for traditional public schools."
    • "In essence, the governor's plan is centered on providing increased resources to our existing public school system. The problem is that pouring more resources into a flawed system does nothing to change or improve the way that system operates." [The Times and Democrat, 2/7/2014]

Where Nikki Haley failed and caved to special interests, Ron DeSantis fought the teacher unions and delivered unprecedented successes for families and students.

  • DeSantis enacted universal school choice in Florida, expanding access so that all parents are empowered to choose the best education for their children.
  • At the same time, Florida under DeSantis' leadership has also made record investments in public education and raising teacher pay.
  • Florida has ranked #1 in higher education the nation for seven years, while keeping tuition affordable and eliminating DEI bureaucracies in public universities.
  • DeSantis has a record of fighting the teacher unions and winning. In addition to signing universal school choice, DeSantis stood up to the teacher unions during COVID and got schools open in 2020. He signed legislation to protect students from discriminatory DEI and gender ideology in schools.
  • DeSantis also signed a paycheck protection law that prevents automatic deduction of teacher union dues. Following the paycheck protection law, the teacher union in Florida's largest school district is now facing decertification and "extinction". The Miami-Dade public school district is also the third-largest district in the United States.

Ron DeSantis, DeSantis Campaign Press Release - Nikki Haley's Failed Education Record and Flip-Flops on School Choice Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/370593

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