e have only been here for seven weeks. That does not mean that we are now experts on what is going on in our new home state. Since we are fans of Stephen Colbert, there has to be some good stuff here. We are insulated from the outside world by living in a 55+ community. It is also gated. However, the gates are kind of flimsy and it is only gated for cars and not for pedestrians. It’s kind of strange to see cars stop at the gates, which are mostly unmanned (or unpersoned), while people who seem to be running go through both ways.
Carol and I have already gone to one school board meeting and learned a bit about how things work. This school district is growing by leaps and bounds at a rate of 500 new students each year. I believe that I heard the number correctly. They appear to have 21,000 students. That would make it the third largest school district in Pennsylvania after Philly and Pittsburgh. You must understand that this state is a county school district state. While Pennsylvania has 500 school districts, SC has about 64. I say about 64 because I can’t seem to nail that number down.
There seems to be a real distinction between those rural school districts with very few resources and those that are wealthier and are mostly suburban or beach communities. The overwhelming number of school districts is below the average per capita income. That tells you that the wealthier school districts are way above the mean. I have not yet gotten into the monetary differences.
One of the most important and positive things that we have gone is to speak with the Superintendent of Education for the state. Most states chief state school officer is appointed. There are 12 states where that position is elected. That means that the position is independent from other elected officials including the governor. We have not had a chance to figure all of these things out.
Our talk with the Superintendent Molly Spearman lasted about 40 minutes. She was aware of some of our friends in Pennsylvania. She is the former head of the administrators association here in SC. Her view of things seemed to be right on target, as far as we could tell. She understood the problems in her state. She had been a teacher for 18 years and spoke from experience.
She thought that we could be of some help to those districts who were in both financial and academic trouble. We were both satisfied that one of her staff members had pulled some things off google that I had written. For us, this all has a familiar ring. There had been an equity suit that lasted 20 years called Abbeville. The Supreme Court just last year decided 3-2 that there was indeed a gross disparity between school district. However, the court was not specific about how to fix it, but retained an overseer role. So far, the legislature has not gone ahead to repair the system.
Although the Supreme Court in PA said that this was not a justiciable issue, the legislature, finally, last year came up with a plan to fix the funding. The plan has not yet been made into a law to be passed by the legislature.
Carol and I will try and be of some help to any of the rural school districts that might need us. From our own experiences over 35 years, we know that there is great suspicion of “outsiders’ among rural people. Maybe our background and the fact that our children graduated from a high school with 70 students in their class will mitigate some of the hesitation. I will give them a copy of “There Are No Subways in Lickingville.” That should do it. Don’t you think?