Sunday, Oct. 16, 2005
A way to revolutionize
education in South Carolina
SC Statehouse Report
16, 2005 - - Imagine a tool that could radically change the
way students learn and open floodgates of opportunity, particularly
for students in rural areas who don't have access to the variety
of coursework available in richer school districts.
This tool is already readily available today. It's the laptop
Imagine what would happen if every South Carolina middle
school student had one to use for a year or two.
That isn't as far-fetched as it may first sound. In 2002,
Maine Gov. Angus King spearheaded a pioneering one-to-one
learning program that provided a notebook computer to every
seventh- and eighth-grade student in his state. For $37 million,
the state bought 34,000 laptops.
In the years since, the program has been an unqualified success,
according to a variety of reports. Students say they're more
organized, efficient and interested in their work. Teachers
say students are more engaged in learning and are developing
more sophisticated thinking skills. They also say because
laptops allow students to explore the Internet, they're actually
able to have more individual contact with student. Administrators
say they see less absenteeism and fewer disciplinary problems.
The $100 laptop
Having a laptop in South Carolina classrooms isn't out of
the realm of possibility. Based on Maine's cost of $1,088
per laptop, South Carolina would have to spend about $61 million
to get a laptop for the state's 56,160 seventh-graders. To
do it across two grade levels for every student in the state's
public schools would cost about $120 million. (Good news:
at MIT say the cost of a bare-bones laptop soon could
drop to $100, which would mean the cost to outfit every seventh-
and eighth-grader in S.C. would drop to $12 million.)
If either figure is too big of a chunk, the state could conduct
a pilot program targeted to schools in the 13 districts that
are underperforming or below average. These districts provide
schooling for 2,388 seventh-graders in 20 different middle
schools. Districts include Allendale, Bamberg 2, Clarendon
1, Fairfield, Florence 4, Hampton 2, Jasper, Lee, Lexington
4, McCormick, Marion 7, Marlboro and Orangeburg 3.
For students in these districts to get laptops in the seventh
grade, the state would have to spend about $2.6 million, based
on $1,088 per laptop.
But imagine how it would change education in those areas -
- places where students don't have good access to advanced
courses or training available in wealthier school districts.
In short, laptops would revolutionize rural education.
In light of a pending school funding lawsuit brought by several
of the school districts in the above list, buying a laptop
for kids to use for a year or two in poor districts is a relatively
inexpensive way to open up new worlds of possibilities - -
and to equalize educational experiences.
But just buying a laptop for seventh-graders in poor districts
wouldn't be all that would be required. Teachers would have
to be trained on how to integrate laptops into classrooms
and administrators would have to figure out new ways of doing
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So let's say that it might cost $4 million to buy the laptops
and provide the training to help teachers explore new ways
to teach in rural, below-average districts. That seems like
a small price for the state to pay to fundamentally change
the lives of kids who don't have the same chance as others.
As one wag observed, classrooms don't have a "classroom
pencil" for kids to share these days. So a laptop per
kid makes sense because it's an electronic tool they can use
at any time.
State lawmakers should seriously consider investing in a
laptop program as a way to improve education for all South
Carolina students. But if the price tag is too much at the
beginning - - even though common sense and lots of research
say the program will work - - then they should at least try
it for students in neglected districts.
Former Maine Gov. Angus King, who started his state's pioneering
laptop program, says it's easy to tell it works.
"You cannot grasp the power of this idea until you go
into one of these seventh-grade classrooms," he said
in a recent article published by Edutopia.org. "You can
almost hear 'Eureka!'"
Wouldn't it be great if South Carolina had a governor who
could say that?
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
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10/10: Rant on taxes
To the editor:
After reading your article, "Getting rid of property
tax would be dumb", caused me to wonder if you were the
posterboy for the democratic party. You know the 'old tax
and spent folk. Most of us professional businessmen, when
oprating our respective companies, did a thing called a budget.
Then it was managements responsibility to not just follow
the budget but be under budget. The people in Columbia can
and should do the same. I am wondering if there are more used
cars sold in this state than new...I look around throught
my travels and I would bet on it. Boats, the same observation!
Here is another thing. With the military bases in SC, it is
easy for non military to drive in this state for years without
getting SC tags. I called the Governor prior to his election
and ask if he planned to get rid of the property tax and he
said he would. Broken promises doesnot get you reelected.
It has been proven by Presidents Reagan and Bush that if you
let the people keep more of their money they have earned...individuals
and company heads alike, spend the money therefore goverment
gets more in return...and life is good. Maybe if the people
in gov. do not receive so many perks then they may be real
and make an effort to do what the forefathers did and that
was to govern for the people and not get elected to get more
for themselves. Have a nice day.
-- Terry E. Thomas, Lady's Island, S.C.
Administration should snap to, Bob Logan, Little
like Red Cross,
Deborah Shealy Nye, Summit, SC
on property taxes, leadership
This section tracks past forecasts by Statehouse Report
with other media reports:
In Statehouse Report:
rid of property taxes would be dumb: "Instead
of listening to the hype, South Carolinians really need
to think about what they're asking for if they want
reduced property taxes because they might get something
worse than they bargained for. Not only should they
watch out for the spin, but they should look out for
misinformation, which seems to have surfaced much more
than the truth so far."
In the Myrtle Beach Sun News:
taxation is state law: "It's important that,
in thinking about this thorny issue, property owners
separate the lack of discipline that some S.C. local
governments show in controlling tax rates from the need
for uniformity and equality in taxation. If they can
do that, perhaps they will focus their ire on elected
officials who too readily raise tax rates than on an
S.C. constitutional principle aimed at ensuring that
all who own property are taxed fairly."
In Statehouse Report:
needs to be a leader: "Instead of listening
to the hype, South Carolinians really need to think
about what they're asking for if they want reduced property
taxes because they might get something worse than they
bargained for. Not only should they watch out for the
spin, but they should look out for misinformation, which
seems to have surfaced much more than the truth so far."
In The State:
has dismal leadership record: "There clearly
is more than enough blame to go around for the fact
that little has been done since Mr. Sanford took office
to right the course our state has been on for years.
But as governor, Mr. Sanford is the one with the greatest
responsibility to articulate a clear vision for the
state, as well as to work to develop the strategy and
forge the relationships to make progress toward that
vision. And so far, he has failed. Worse,
we see little hope this will change, either in the coming
legislative session or in the next five years."
SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political events from the past week:
Demolition of a span of the old Pearman bridge in Charleston
McConnell, Leatherman. Hats off for the chairmen of
the special Senate tax study committee for deep-sizing a measure
that would raise sales tax to kill property taxes. Senate
Bill 880, they said, was a little too much for now. Lawmakers
probably will do something with sales taxes to relieve the
burden of property taxes, but this huge bill would have caused
huge long-term problems.
Bridge. It's good workers are moving forward at breaking
apart the old Cooper River bridges to make fish habitat. It's
ashamed the explosions didn't work as predicted.
Flat employment. The state has more than 1.8 million
people employed, but jobs are down again -- this time 0.1
percent over the previous month.
Harvin. A silent moment for the loss of long-time
State Rep. Alex Harven, D-Clarendon.
Gingrich. Thumbs down to former House Speaker Newt
Gingrich for endorsing Gov. Mark Sanford's terrible Medicare
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