June 20, 2004
State faces educational
SC Statehouse Report
JUNE 20, 2004 Theres a relatively painless and
easy way to highlight how South Carolina has two educational
systems - - one that provides students in growing counties
with great opportunities and another in poorer counties that
fails students and taxpayers.
you have to do is ask each of the lawyers and witnesses in
a Manning school funding fairness trial whether theyd
rather send their kids and grandchildren to schools in Greenville
or Columbia versus schools in Dillon or Allendale counties.
Its a no-brainer. If they told the truth, theyd
pick the better school districts without flinching.
But the legal system doesnt work that way. So the off-and-on
funding trial continues. After 11 months of testimony in Manning,
the case appears to be winding down as the defense is calling
witnesses following testimony by dozens of experts, officials,
superintendents and teachers for the eight poor school districts
suing the state.
At the heart of the issue is the districts contention
that the state has failed to provided adequate funding to
allow local schools to provide a minimum adequate education
to students. Unlike wealthier areas, property values in these
areas arent high enough to provide enough tax money
to give real educational opportunities to children. So, they
The state, however, counters lawmakers have boosted funds
to education almost $1 billion over the last 10 years, including
extra help for at-risk schools. Defense lawyers say the state
has met its responsibility to provide the opportunity for
a minimum adequate education, and it is only a
goal to provide students with the best education possible.
In essence, while being poor may be linked to lower educational
achievement, the state didnt cause folks to be poor.
Over the course of the long trial, inequities among schools
in South Carolina have been bared, as highlighted in a review
of plaintiff testimony. Superintendents and teachers painted
pictures of crumbling schools without sufficient supplies
that cant retain or attract the high-quality teachers
needed by poor students to narrow educational achievement
Economists described how South Carolina residents were taxed
below the national average and rural residents pay a disproportionate
share of taxes. Businessmen testified how rural schools werent
doing their jobs in preparing students for the work force.
A couple of senior state senators said the state wasnt
funding education as well as it should.
A study released this week by the state Education Oversight
Committee furnished more ammunition. It said despite years
of talk about closing the education gap between black and
white students and between those who live in poor and wealthier
districts, the gap was widening. And while the report said
there were more schools in which black and/or poor students
were excelling in at least one subject, EOC Director JoAnne
Anderson told media the report should be considered a code
red wake-up call for the state.
Earlier this year, Anderson testified at the trial that current
student funding needs in South Carolina were $1 billion below
the national median. She said the state needed to invest hundreds
of millions of dollars to overhaul public schools to
make them work, particularly in rural areas.
As Sen. John Land, D-Clarendon, said of the trial in his hometown,
the result will likely have a sweeping impact in South Carolina.
If the state wins, the status quo will be upheld and the states
two school systems will be perpetuated.
But if the trial results in a victory for the plaintiffs from
Allendale, Dillon, Florence, Hampton, Lee, Jasper, Marion
and Orangeburg counties, sweeping changes could be ahead caused
by increased taxes to fund education or decreased services
in other state agencies to pay for educational remedies.
The magnitude of the problem faced by the state is huge based
on the number of poor students in the state. Currently, some
49 percent of South Carolinas students, or 335,000 kids,
are eligible to receive free or reduced-price school lunches
based on federal poverty guidelines. Free lunches are available
to students in families that earn less than 130 percent of
poverty ($24,505 for a family of four) and reduced-price lunches
are available to those that earn less than 185 percent of
poverty ($34,873 for a family of four).
If the state spent just $100 more every year to help educate
every poor student, it would have to find an extra $33.5 million.
Spending $1,000 per student: $335 million.
One way or another, South Carolina faces a financial wake-up
call if it really wants to generate real educational opportunity
for her children. Be ready for it.
6/20: Father's Day
This week's cartoon by our Bill McLemore:
needs more impact fees
To the editor:
This state needs to amend the present developer impact fee
legislation so as to allow communities, especially in high-growth
coastal communities such as Horry County, to impose it on
all new construction in a way that it helps to supplement
all services, including public education, that growth creates.
Its imposition would help eliminate the manipulation taking
place with property tax versus sales tax as a means of financint
the public's necessities. Sales tax and/or caps on residential/commercial
property now before our governor for his signature is definitely
not the way to go. Both merely pass the long term debt responsibility
down to the lowest wage earner or retiree on a fixed income
and owning little if any property.
Real property owners should take the bitter with the sweet.
Appreciating property is a wonderful investment, but a portion
of property tax is deductible. In addition, its sale can return
a pleasing profit, but with those benefits come higher property
-- Bob Logan, president, We
the People of Horry County
and economic health are connected
To the editor:
I read with great interest your editorial (Commentary,
6/13) on the report generated by the Council on Coastal
Futures in Sunday's Florence Morning News. I would be very
interested in the actual report and how to acquire a copy.
(Editor's note: If you want a copy of
the report, please send an email to email@example.com
and we'll send you a copy.)
Our grass roots group in Florence has been campaigning for
the same protection of our only natural resource Jeffries
Creek, which is threatened by degradation from rapid commercial
sprawl of big box development. We have been fighting more
than 16 months to protect this watershed from the storm water
pollution of a planned SuperCenter and other big box developments.
The connection between environmental health and economic
health is one we have been stressing, but thus far has fallen
on deaf ears. Thank you so much for your insightful and lucid
-- Carolyn Jebaily, Chair, Responsible Economic Development,
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SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political events from the past week:
Liberty Fellows. Congratulations to the first leadership
class of Liberty Fellows -- budding SC leaders who will engage
in community projects and mentorships over two years. Part
of the first class: Sen. Jim Ritchie, R-Spartanburg, and Speaker
Pro Tem Doug Smith.
Southern Baptists. Hats off to delegates to the Southern
Baptist convention who voted down a dumb South Carolina resolution
to encourage Baptists to take their kids out of public schools.
State Dems. For a change, state Democrats won a special
election -- this time in Kershaw County where Laurie Slade
Funderburk won the House seat vacated by now-Sen. Vincent
Sheheen. It's about time.
Shealyizing. Thumbs down to more questionable campaign
tactics by GOP strategist Rod Shealy. This time, he got a
former Democratic House member to weigh in with a slimy letter
on behalf of Sen. John Kuhn against former Rep. Chip Campsen,
who face each other in a Tuesday runoff. More.
Carolina Investors backers. People who trusted Carolina
Investors will get only 15 cents on the dollar on their investment.
The settlement was good for investors, who expected nothing,
but it's ashamed they got taken advantage of.
Dr. Chris Hawk. Thumbs down to an idea by Dr. Chris
Hawk of Charleston, who tried to get the American Medical
Convention to sanction no treatment for litigation lawyers
as long as tort reforms are unpassed. Seems like a blatant
violation of the Hippocratic Oath. Doctor, heal thyself.
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