Among the members of the South Carolina Organization of Rural Schools (SCORS) . we no longer should think of ourselves as rural, poor and minority. We should not think of ourselves as the Corridor of Shame. Those sobriquets tend to make our children feel as if they are second class and repel those who would want to live there or even teach in those districts.
Evidently the current Supreme Court of the state of South Carolina has no trouble decimating our schools for the sake of some political purpose. The Abbeville equity case has gone on since 1993. It was finally decided in 2014 by a 3-2 vote affirming the plaintiff’s contention that the funding system is unfair and inequitable.
Now, in the last few months of 2017, having replaced two judges, the Supremes now say, by a 3-2 vote, that they are relinquishing control of the case and giving it back to the legislature to attend to. The court also praised the legislature for what they have already done. No one here can figure out what large things have been done to ameliorate the lack of resources and the lack of qualified teachers in rural school districts.
South Carolina educators have not been aggressive in their lobbying efforts. The Abbeville case was their greatest hope for a reversal of policies that always disadvantaged poor and rural schools. As a simple example: whenever funds are dispersed in some sort of novel way, the condition of dispersal is the number of children in the district. Therefore, a small rural district might get an increase of $100 per student and in the same distribution, a wealthy district would get the same amount per child.
Those are seen, by the legislature and the administration, as a bone to be given to the plaintiff districts. In South Carolina, the Superintendent of Education is an elected position. She does not have access to the strings that let loose of the purses of funds. That is left to the legislature.
It even goes further down the line to local legislators who have some control over what is happening in the schools. In a particularly poor county, funds to school districts at the local level are still based on the wealth of the county. I am sure that you can figure out what happens.
It is beyond the scope of my understanding what sense it makes to treat 35% of the children in the state’s public schools in this manner. There does not seem to be any understanding of how the rest of the country looks at South Carolina. A number of ratings list South Carolina as the 50th state in the union in education. Don’t those in power understand that the future of the economy of the state rests with the generations now in school?
There is much happiness in the upper echelons of government that South Carolina is growing in retirement enclaves. That the newly retired baby boom generation will disappear soon and that the villages of retirement may wind up as Section 8 housing? Will we live off the large companies that dwell here because we are a “Right to Work,” state? When offshore countries, with even lower wages than SC, attract the companies that reside here now? You may rmember the VW plant in New Stanton, Pa that left after getting a bunch of tax goodies to reside there. They are now gone.
These are such obvious things. How can we not know that we need to offer our children the right to choose what they will be in the future? Do we want them to continue their trail to low wage jobs in a service industry that will end soon enough? Or do we want to offer them the education and training so that they will be proud to be South Carolinians?