(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Tim Scott, the first black Republican elected to a full term in the Senate from South Carolina, says putting more poor students in better schools is a priority for him.
"Why not give more parents choice? That would lead to revolution," he told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Thursday.
"Had it not been for education, I would not be sitting here today," Scott said.
"I think of education as a gateway to the American dream. I want to open that gate wider for kids living in poverty, wider for those folks in middle-income America, who are sandwiched -- think about it -- the folks who are taking care of their parents and their kids, they need access to a better education system that sometimes they cannot afford...I'd love to give parents the tool of choice. When parents have choice in education, I think their kids have a better chance of success."
Scott said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has done a "great job" of changing things in his state, where 90 percent of students in New Orleans are in charter schools. "I'd love to see that throughout this country," Scott said. "I am a great advocate and champion...on that issue."
He also hailed the District of Columbia's opportunity scholarship program, a voucher system that has produced a much higher percentage of college-bound students than ordinary public schools.
"I want that to be the case for every child," Scott said.
While the American Conservative Union gives Scott a lifetime rating of 97 percent, the NAACP has given him an F on its annual scorecard, but Scott shrugs it off:
He noted that 40 years of Democrats controlling Congress has only produced greater poverty among black Americans. (According to the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, the poverty rate for all African Americans in 2012 was 28.1 percent, an increase from 25.5 percent in 2005.)
"These are classic examples that the policies of the left have not worked," Scott said on Thursday. "I will tell you that if I have an F on the NAACP scorecard, it's because I believe that progress has to be made, and the government is not the answer for progress."
Scott said he was poor growing up, but he had a mentor at Chick-fil-A who taught him "that the brilliance of the American economy happens through business ownership and entrepreneurial spirit, so whether you own the business or not, success is possible, if you A) have a good education; B) have a strong work ethic. For the average person, can these two key components come together and form a strong foundation. That is the way that you eradicate poverty."
Scott said big-government social programs and various nonprofits, all working on poverty, have only produced more of it.
"The key, it seems like, is individual freedom and economic opportunity. Fusing those together in an agenda that focuses on education seems the way forward."