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ISSUE 10.36
Sep. 09, 2011

RECENT ISSUES:
12/04 | 11/27 | 11/20 | 11/13

Index

News :
State panel to look into lagging reading scores
Legislative Agenda :
Not much happening
Radar Screen :
More college cuts ahead?
Commentary :
Questions, not trip, are Haley's problem
Spotlight :
The Riley Institute at Furman
Feedback :
Drop us a line
Scorecard :
One up, three down
Stegelin :
Some 'splainin' to do
Megaphone :
Sinking to cattiness
Encyclopedia :
Farmer-turned-minister was gifted architect as well

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NUMBER OF THE WEEK

$127,000.00

That’s the amount the state spend in public money on Gov. Nikki Haley’s job-finding excursion to Europe recently, spurring criticism by some of the trip as a cover for a vacation. More.

MEGAPHONE

Sinking to cattiness

"We've gone through a great exercise of fixing a hole in the boat and it's sprung wide open and the boat's sinking again."

-- State Sen. Larry Grooms (R-Bonneau), chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, reacting this week at a hearing into the state Department of Transportation’s ongoing fiscal woes, which come after a legislature-led house cleaning a few years ago of the agency. More.

"All I will tell you is, God bless that little girl at The Post and Courier. Her job is to create conflict, my job is to create jobs."

-- Gov. Nikki Haley about reporting by “little girl” Renee Dudley on the $127,000 business trip to Europe.  Post and Courier columnist Melody Balog criticized Haley for being condescending and catty:  “Shame on you Nikki Haley. We deserve better.”  More.

ENCYCLOPEDIA

Farmer-turned-minister was gifted architect as well

Minister and architect John DeWitt McCollough was born at Society Hill on Dec. 8, 1822, the only child of John Lane McCollough and Sarah DeWitt. Educated at St. David's Academy and South Carolina College, where he earned both B.A. and M.A. degrees in 1840, McCollough then became a Society Hill farmer. In June 1842 he married Harriet Bell Hart. He returned to Columbia in 1847 to prepare for the Episcopal ministry with the Rev. Peter Shand, rector of Trinity, Columbia.

In January 1848 McCullough moved his family to Glenn Springs in Spartanburg District, where he continued his theological studies, designed a small wooden church for the resort village, and carved its interior furnishings. The diocesan magazine called it "a happy specimen of simple Gothic," with a "proper" (deeply recessed) chancel and tower.

In July 1850 Bishop C.E. Gadsden consecrated Calvary, Glenn Springs; ordained McCollough; and appointed him rector of the Church of the Advent in Spartanburg. After designing a temporary chapel for his tiny new congregation and starting missionary activity in Union, Yorkville, and Anderson, he began supervising construction for a permanent Spartanburg church and opened St. John's Episcopal School for boys.

A craftsman without formal training, McCollough was nevertheless aware of the new ideas that were transforming Episcopal church architecture. "Ecclesiologists," influenced by the high-church Oxford movement in England, emphasized the relationship between theology and architecture, believing that new churches should mirror fourteenth-century English Gothic design. Recessed chancels, dark interiors, stained glass, pointed arches, battlements, and cross-topped spires replaced Georgian simplicity. These concepts were disseminated to American churchmen through the journal of the New York Ecclesiology Society. A series of articles on "proper" church architecture in the Gospel Messenger, the diocesan magazine, disseminated these ideas to South Carolina.

In the decade before the Civil War, McCollough designed or was supervising architect for seven ecclesiological churches: Christ Church, Greenville (1854); St. Stephen's, Ridgeway (1854); Nativity, Union (1859); Christ Church, Mars Bluff (1859); St. Mark's, Chester (1860); Grace, Anderson (1860); and Advent, Spartanburg (begun 1852, consecrated 1864).

But McCollough's Spartanburg school failed, and he was bankrupt. He moved in 1857 to Winnsboro and later to Union. In 1859 he returned to Spartanburg and Advent, serving as chaplain with Holcombe's Legion during the Civil War. During Reconstruction, desperately poor South Carolinians could no longer build expensive churches. In the postbellum years McCollough provided far simpler designs for churches at Rock Hill, Gaffney, Lancaster, Blacksburg, Willington, Greenwood, Clemson, and Saluda in North Carolina.

In 1874 McCollough resigned as Spartanburg rector, but he continued missionary activity, starting congregations in Gaffney, Blacksburg, Walhalla, and Seneca and serving at Glenn Springs, Union, and Chester. He moved to Walhalla in 1890 to become rector of St. John's, which he may have designed. He certainly was the architect for the second Calvary, Glenn Springs, and with his son, Edward, designed St. Andrews, Greenville, which was completed posthumously. McCollough died on Jan. 23, 1902. He was buried at the Church of the Advent in Spartanburg.

Excerpted from the entry by Judith T. Bainbridge. Photo credit: Wes Cox.To read more about this or 2,000 other entries about South Carolina, check out The South Carolina Encyclopedia by USC Press. (Information used by permission.)

PALMETTO PRIORITIES

Palmetto Priorities Statehouse Report encourages state leaders to develop and implement Palmetto Priorities involving several issues to make the state better a better place. Click the link to learn more about our suggestions for bipartisan policy objectives.

Here is a summary of our Palmetto Priorities:

CORRECTIONS: Reduce the prison population by 25 percent by 2020.

EDUCATION: Cut the state's dropout rate in half by 2020.

ELECTIONS: Increase voter registration to 75 percent by 2015.

ENVIRONMENT: Adopt a state energy policy that requires energy producers to generate 20 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020.

ETHICS: Overhaul state ethics laws.

HEALTH CARE: Ensure affordable and accessible health care.

JOBS: Develop a Cabinet-level post to add, retain 10,000 small business jobs per year.

POLITICS: Have a vigorous two- or multi-party political system of governance.

ROADS: Strengthen all bridges and upgrade state roads by 2015.

SAFETY: Cut the state's violent crime rate by one-third by 2016.

TAX REFORM: Remove outdated special interest sales tax exemptions as part of an overall reform of the state's tax structure to be completed by 2014.

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News

State panel to look into lagging reading scores

By Bill Davis, senior editor

SEPT. 9, 2011 -- The way in which South Carolina teaches elementary school students to read could undergo major change in the coming years, thanks to a new blue-ribbon panel being assembled in Columbia.
    
It’s old news that South Carolina students lag in reading, but what may be at fault is the way we teach our kids how to read, according to a recent State Budget and Control Board report.  

According to the report, reading scores have improved over the past 20 years in South Carolina, but still lag behind national markers, as outlined in the chart below. That could prove costly in the coming decades as national experts say low reading scores can be a factor leading to higher dropout and incarceration rates.

One of the main criticisms in the report by budget board planning and evaluation director Baron Holmes was that “reading has not been promoted through high-profile policy and practice guidance from elected officials backed by evaluation and oversight.”

In other words,  governors and other elected officials could be equally share blame for lagging reading scores with the state’s high poverty and lamentable surroundings, according to the report.
 
 

The report convinced enough people in the Statehouse that something needed to be done that a panel will be convened this fall of 25 professionals, officials, laymen and politicians to look into what could be done.  Gov. Nikki Haley and state Superintendent of Education Mick Zais primarily will make appointments to the panel.

Holmes said the state had spent a lot of energy worrying about reading scores, but not enough time and money looking into what it could do to raise them. He said his research shows teachers, who tend to be “generalists” teaching every subject under the sun in the lower grades, needed more classes in college that teach them how to teach reading.

Jay W. Ragley, communications head for the state Department of Education, said Zais believed the panel was proof that “one size does not fit all in education.”

Ragley said Zais had consistently held that if it came down to it, students could be pulled from other important activities, like physical education, to take part in additional reading programs.

But, Ragley insisted, the state was in “austere times,” and that the panel had to remember that there wouldn’t likely be extra money to fund more programs.  He added Zais gives short shrift to the “latest in education fads.” The department has yet to release the names of those appointed by Zais.


Ragley said clear policy with clear expectations would be key in making the panel’s recommendations get more serious consideration in Columbia.

Former state Superintendent of Education Jim Rex, taking a break from planting seed corn at his farm in the Upstate, generally agreed with Holmes that not enough had been done about reading on a policy and political level.

Complicating the matter, according to Rex, was there hasn’t been a consistent message from the national education community as to the best ways to teach reading, especially in a high-poverty state like South Carolina.

Rex said that during his tenure (2007-11), camps of educators were entrenched in their ways and highly critical of other approaches.

Rex’s biggest concern was that Zais and Haley wouldn’t be willing to foot the bill on what are usually expensive reading programs.

“We need to wake up and suck it up and spend the money on early-years education for the kids, and with such an effort we will transform the state in a single generation,” said Rex.

He said  reading scores were in trouble across the nation.

“Reading scores have leveled out, but we are spending less money; class size is up, and less intervention at the preschool and early school levels will probably end up in us seeing bigger gaps.”

State Sen. Larry Martin (R-Pickens) has heard about those gaps at the dinner table at hometown, where his has worked in their community as an elementary school teacher.

“I’ve heard from wife early that reading comprehension is so important that in fourth grade if a student is still reading on a second grade level, they were lost,” said Martin, who also serves on the Senate Education Committee.

Martin agreed, up to a point, that legislators could have done more to address reading scores, like they did in the mid- and late-’90s. But, he said, school districts tackled the issue more and the legislature has been bogged down in what he called “the era of budget cuts” since then.

“It’s a fair criticism, as there has not been a mandated program” for reading, said Martin, who pointed out how his own district, with a lower ability to pay for its public schools than neighboring counties, scraped together local funds to pay for a relatively expensive reading program.

The governor’s office has already named six of its appointees. But when asked where Haley stood on the possibility of expensive programs and what was needed to make sure the panel’s recommendations didn’t gather dust on a shelf like past blue-ribbon efforts, spokesman Rob Godfrey responded simply after two days of requests for comment: “We’re waiting to read the report with interest.”

Crystal ball:  South Carolina has historically struggled with education, in general, and there’s not a lot of money lying around. And with tea party sentiment strong in the state, it could be a tough slog in an election year to get legislators inspired to tackle a tough issue like reading, which has socio-economic issues further complicating it. There will be a better chance of knowing how the panel’s recommendations will fare when its report comes out in January.

Bill Davis, editor of Statehouse Report, can be reached at:  editor@statehousereport.com.

Legislative Agenda

Not much happening

Joint Bond Review. The full committee will meet Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. in 308 Gressette to discuss a short agenda, highlighted by a transfer of money to the DOT from the State Infrastructure Bank.
Radar Screen

More college cuts ahead?

With the federal stimulus money drying up for state programs, look for more big cuts in budgets at state colleges and universities in the coming year.

A recent study by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities found 35 percent of the state’s public higher ed spending in 2009  was from one-time federal dollars.  This year:  Just 2 percent.  More. 

Meanwhile, the state legislature has chastised tuition increases at state schools, going so far as to threaten spending for building projects.   Will they trim things like out-of-state students.  Hardly.  They bring in money.  More likely:  Cuts for staff and spots normally reserved for in-state students.
Palmetto Politics

Rocky roads

All eyes in Columbia were on the Senate hearing this week that probed the money problems at the state Department of Transportation.

Boy, did they ever get an eyeful and an earful.

The agency had already acknowledged it had to get a $51 million advance from the federal government to pay down outstanding -- and in some cases severely late -- bills to road-building contractors.

Agency Secretary Robert St. Onge told legislators this week that even though the DOT was solvent, the same cash flow situation could return next summer during the height of the building season. Senate Transportation Committee chairman Larry Grooms (R-Bonneau) praised St. Onge’s “forthrightness,” telling Statehouse Report it was in contrast with the “hunkering down” the agency employed a few years ago during the last round of legislative scrutiny. But Grooms, who called the special hearing, said a subcommittee would likely meet to again take up the issues in October once he knew who on his committee would be willing to commit to intense, out-of-session work.

“We’ve got the fifth largest roadway system in the country, and people want to keep on building, but we can’t take care of what we’ve already got,” said Grooms.  One committee member, state Sen. Harvey Peeler (R-Gaffney), called for abolishing the commission that helps oversee the agency. Grooms said today that whatever bill he pre-filed before the next legislative session would include some sort of restructuring, as he was not pleased when St. Onge said he had two bosses, the commission and the governor.
Commentary

Questions, not trip, are Haley's problem

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

SEPT. 9, 2011 -- All sorts of folks across the Palmetto State have their noses out of joint because of Gov. Nikki Haley’s $127,000 “European vacation” to try to lure in much-needed jobs.

But critics aren’t focusing on the real story buried in The Post and Courier’s original exposé on the trip by Haley and a team of state development officials. Among the expenses: a $25,412 “networking” reception in Paris with business bigwigs; $1,529 in airline tickets for the governor (Columbia to Paris; Munich to Columbia); and an average hotel bill for the governor of $430 a day.

O.K. It looks kind of expensive. But consider:

  • It’s not cheap to fly these days. Haley’s ticket appeared to be coach class.

  • It’s not cheap to stay in Paris. For example, a Best Western near the Arc de Triomphe averages $404 per night, according to Expedia.

  • If you’re going to try to lure a big industry here, you can’t look like Jed, Granny, Jethro and Elly May Clampett. You have to throw a party with some style.

Quite frankly, if the state spent $127,000 every single week in Europe trying to get big companies here, the annual outlay would be $6.6 million. It could be argued that an investment of that size would be worth it for new company payrolls worth millions a year in South Carolina, which has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates.

In the world of economic development, you have to pay to play. Sure, it is important to invest in education and workforce development to create an attractive environment here -- something we’ve editorialized about for years. But if you’re going to woo business types to come to South Carolina, you also can’t be cheap about it. 

All of this being said, the buried story in news accounts was how the governor’s office didn’t respond to inquiries about the trip. (FYI, the newspaper was invited to go on the trip but declined. Had it gone, it likely would have found out how much work these trips are -- and that they’re not “European vacations.”)

From the original story:

“Following repeated requests, Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said Thursday he would ‘find three to five minutes’ for a phone interview with the governor, but by Friday Godfrey said in an email ‘the governor is not available.’ ... Godfrey had requested an emailed list of questions for this story, but he did not respond to them.”

What was the governor’s office hiding? Such a response, which caused a week worth of media misery for Haley’s communications team, is troubling because it was the latest of a long pattern of Haley’s office not answering direct media inquiries from Palmetto state reporters. On numerous occasions, Haley’s office has either refused to answer questions from Statehouse Report or only provided short answers, which often weren’t on point. Refusing to take part in interviews allows the Haley staff to bypass the give-and-take of the interview process in which reporters can follow up and gain understanding on newsworthy issues.

Interestingly, the Haley media machine seems to get all hot and bothered when it gets national media inquiries, knowing full well that softball questions will come to help build her national image and disseminate her ideology. Unfortunately, the standard modus operandi by the governor’s media office for South Carolina reporters is to:

a. Keep on the voice mail  or take a message.

b. Tell reporters to email questions to control them and limit follow-up.

c. Fail to answer questions in a timely manner, give murky answers or answer completely different questions than those asked.

Bottom line: We  aren’t quibbling with how Haley travels to try to pump jobs in the state. But her office’s continuing strategy to ignore state media inquiries or spin the ones she wants is highly irresponsible of the state’s top elected official. People have a right to know what the Haley Administration -- which campaigned on transparency -- is up to and if it isn’t more forthcoming, it can look forward to more negative stories on things like the European trip which should have been portrayed in a more positive light.

Andy Brack is publisher of Statehouse Report.  He can be reached at: brack@statehousereport.com
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Scorecard

One up, three down

Investment.  A venture capital firm has announced a $25 million investment in Marlboro County.  ZF Group is adding $80 million in investment in Laurens (300 new jobs).  And a Canadian firm plans a 300-job plant in Orangeburg. 

DeMint.
For a state that prides itself on manners, U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint might need a refresher course on deportment, as he skipped President Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress this week.  Instead, he released a “mocking” video. Real nice, Jimbo. 
More.

Taxes.
State Rep. Harold Mitchell (D-Spartanburg) turned himself in to authorities this week on charges of tax evasion.
More.

Travelgate?
Look, people, if Gov. Nikki Haley’s trip to Europe nets one new business in South Carolina, it’s a good thing. It’s not like she went to, say, Argentina.
More.
Stegelin

Some 'splainin' to do


Also from Stegelin: 9/2 8/268/19 8/12
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Statehouse Report

Editor and Publisher: Andy Brack
Senior Editor: Bill Davis
Contributing Photographer: Michael Kaynard

Phone: 843.670.3996

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Excerpts from The South Carolina Encyclopedia are published with permission and copyrighted 2006 by the Humanities Council SC. Excerpts were edited by Walter Edgar and published by the University of South Carolina Press. Statehouse Report has partnered with USC Press to provide readers with this interesting weekly historical excerpt about the state. Republication is not allowed. For additional information about Statehouse Report, including information on underwriting, go to http://www.statehousereport.com/.