Sunday, April 3, 2005
has moral obligation to fund rural schools
SC Statehouse Report
3 , 2005 - - When it comes to funding rural public schools,
the state isn't doing enough. Just watch a gripping new documentary
that's starting to make the rounds and you'll know why.
"Corridor of Shame: The Neglect of South Carolina's
Rural Schools" should make you feel ashamed. It shows
old crumbling rural schools where rusted water fountains don't
work, ceilings fall in, sewage backs up during big rains,
and rags are stuffed at the bottoms of rotting doors and walls
to keep out the cold.
Not only are the facilities a third-world wreck, but poor,
rural school districts have a host of other problems highlighted
in the film: difficulties in retaining good teachers, an eroding
tax base that can't keep up with needs, and a lack of modern
materials, such as science labs, computers and new books that
are readily available in wealthier school districts in urban
and suburban areas.
a dozen years ago, eight poor, rural districts decided they
had had enough. They filed suit against the state for not
providing a "minimally adequate" education for students
in their areas, stretching mostly along the Interstate 95
corridor from Dillon County to Jasper County.
A spotlight shone on the issue during a trial that finally
happened last year with more than 100 days of testimony. A
decision is expected in the summer.
But most people didn't see the trial in Clarendon County.
Many may not have understood the depth of the problems in
these counties based on news reports.
But in just 58 minutes, the film by Columbia public relations
professional Bud Ferillo changes that perspective. Not only
does it show disturbing images, inadequate facilities and
unacceptable conditions for learning in the 21st Century,
it tells moving stories of parents who expect more from the
state. It highlights teachers who are committed to help children.
And it spotlights administrators who pull out their hair to
try to offer the best they can.
"I have to look parents in the eye and say it's the
best we can do," Dillon School District 2 Superintendent
Ray Rogers says in the film. "It's not the best we can
do and we're selling them short."
He said poor rural counties were appealing to the Legislature
"Would they allow their children to go to school in
the situations you have just seen? No. It's wrong and we need
to do better."
WORLD: About the national debt
TRACK: New section
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Marva Tigner, the director of curricula of the Jasper County
School District, told how her twin sons, both juniors in high
school, face challenges.
"One aspires to go to Duke," she says, barely holding
back tears. "Because he's being educated in Jasper County,
his chances are greatly diminished."
Ferillo, whose project was funded by a blue-ribbon group
of state philanthropists and leaders, said the dozens of interviews
and days of filming the project, provided one of the most
moving experiences in his life.
"I felt like I had wandered into some long- abandoned
concentration camps, but instead of finding the morbid remains
of tortured souls, I found angels - - men and women and children
who strive for more under these conditions every day."
That statement wasn't political rhetoric. It was a fair characterization
of what's really happening in poor, rural South Carolina.
"If we turn our backs on these rural school districts,
we lose another generation," Charleston Mayor Joseph
P. Riley Jr. said in the film. "We'll lose our small
towns and see them turn into wastelands."
Later this month, state lawmakers will get a DVD version
of the documentary. Hundreds of other copies will go for free
to libraries, school boards and community groups. A screening
is scheduled for April 18 at Francis Marion University, along
with later shows in Charleston and at Lander and Wofford colleges.
On Tuesday, the film opens at Columbia's Nickelodeon Theater.
In May, SCETV plans to broadcast the film followed by a panel
discussion, said SCETV President Moss Bresnahan.
The film, the result of an idea by former Santee Cooper chairman
John Rainey, recognizes regardless of the results of the court
case, state lawmakers have to do something to deal with the
inequities of education in the state.
"The decision that our Legislature has to make is either
going to doom rural South Carolina to poverty and second-class
education from now on or we're going to stop and say we cannot
leave a third of our population out there without adequate
education," Rogers said.
For too long, state lawmakers have been taking a moral holiday
on providing an adequate education for poor, rural South Carolinians.
It's time for that to stop.
More info: http://www.corridorofshame.com
4/3: On the national
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
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Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
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McIntosh. New SC Democratic Party Executive Director
Lachlan McIntosh is going to need all the help he can get
to bring the party out of the doldrums. More.
Rutherford. Hats off to Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland,
for proposing a smoking ban in SC restaurants. While the bill
probably won't go anywhere, you've got to give him courage
credits for trying.
Anderson Chamber. Congrats to the Anderson Chamber
of Commerce for coming out to oppose the governor's school
Folks. The governor's press secretary, Will Folks,
got in some hot water for what sounded like an implied threat
to Anderson County Chamber officials for not supporting the
governor's voucher bill. Folks denied making a threat, but
later apologized. Why apologize if there's nothing wrong?
Drilling. Some folks apparently have in mind that
it might be good to have offshore oil drilling in SC waters.
That's a great way to attract more tourism dollars. More.
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