Sunday, Oct. 28, 2007
Grassroots movement needed for education improvement
OCT. 28, 2007 - - Charleston education advocate Jon Butzon
said something at a meeting this week that struck home: Until
it costs politicians more to do nothing about South Carolina's
education system than it does to do something, not much will
At present, there's not a great political outpouring for
doing anything much differently, even with all of the education
system's problems everybody knows about. If people want something
other than more of the same, grassroots action needs to trump
Two years ago, state Judge Thomas Cooper ruled South Carolina
had not provided a "minimally adequate education"
to children living in poverty in districts along Interstate
95 - - the so-called "Corridor of Shame" highlighted
by a documentary of the same name. Despite evidence of decrepit
facilities and the need for better teachers in these districts,
the judge also ruled that the state provided safe facilities
and "minimally competent teachers."
More importantly, he left it to the Legislature to make any
changes to fix the system.
Prior to Cooper's ruling, lawmakers were shaking in their
boots because they knew they faced a potential billion-dollar
funding crisis if they were forced to fix rural schools that
had been neglected for years.
After Cooper's ruling, they must have been jumping around
in the backrooms giving each other high-fives. Since the ruling,
they've invested $60 million to fund full-day kindergarten
to 4-year-olds living in poverty. And while they've cooed
and pandered with rhetoric, they've hemmed and hawed on real
changes to make those schools - - and all of schools across
the state - - the kind of places where people really want
to send their children.
And today, because lawmakers have replaced local property
taxes that fund schools with an increase in sales taxes, the
burden rests soundly on their legislative shoulders to leapfrog
into the 21st century with our public schools.
citizens, we need to get much more sophisticated about
what advocacy means."
State Superintendent Jim Rex
It's not rocket science what needs to happen: a real investment
in public education beyond what is done now.
What's clear to most people across the state, but apparently
not to politicians, is that an investment of more money in
winning strategies will make a difference in the lives of
South Carolina's children. (Butzon wryly notes that politicians
often claim throwing money at the problem won't fix it. But
in South Carolina because we really haven't tried that strategy,
how can it hurt?)
A comprehensive, 18-month study by the Riley Institute at
Furman University highlights prescriptions for fixing the
state's education system with which educators, business leaders
and parents generally agree -- create smaller class sizes,
involve parents more, start earlier with public education,
provide better resources in classrooms, have tutoring for
struggling students, invest in effective teachers, get better
facilities and increase learning opportunities.
While the prescriptions for change aren't new, the fact that
a huge sample of people - - almost 800 people gathered from
every school district in the state - - had such consensus
should send a clear message to lawmakers. They should hear
that people want better public schools and fundamentally agree
better schools are a priority.
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"The people are ahead of the legislature," said
state Superintendent of Education Jim Rex in an interview.
He said the Riley Institute study reinforced what he has heard
over and over in hundreds of meetings with parents, teachers
and administrators across the state in the nine months he's
been the state's top educator.
"What I've learned is that doing the right thing too
slowly is no different than doing nothing, in terms of results,"
In the coming legislation, Rex is expected to challenge state
lawmakers to look at new ways to fund education across the
state that may shake up things.
It's about time.
"It comes down to a situation of apathy and passiveness
on the part of way too many people," Rex said. "As
citizens, we need to get much more sophisticated about what
Two big things need to happen too.
Lawmakers need to understand that inaction or slow movement
will cost them at the polls. But for them to understand, citizens
need to get off the couches and hold them accountable.
Andy Brack, publisher of Statehouse Report,
can be reached at: email@example.com.
Furman championed religious liberty
Baptist minister and educator Richard Furman was born
in Esopus, New York, on October 9, 1755, to Wood Furman and
Rachel Brodhead. In 1756 the family moved from New York to
Charleston, eventually settling in St. Thomas Parish. Furman
was educated at home, and mastered both Latin and Greek. His
penchant for self-education was recognized when Rhode Island
College (later Brown University) awarded him a Masters
(1792) and Doctor of Divinity Degree (1800).
In 1770 the family moved to the High Hills of Santee, near
the fork of the Wateree and Congaree rivers. Under the influence
of a local minister, Joseph Reese, Furman was converted in
1771. Abandoning his Anglican upbringing, Furman embraced
the evangelistic Calvinism of Separate Baptists. He was ordained
on May 10, 1774, and served as pastor of High Hills Baptist
Church (1774-1787) and Charleston Baptist Church (1787-1825).
On November 20, 1774, Furman married Elizabeth Haynsworth.
They had four children before her death in 1787. Two years
later, on May 5, 1789, Furman married Dorothea Burn. His second
marriage produced thirteen children.
Furman volunteered to fight during the Revolutionary War,
but Governor John Rutledge persuaded him to plead the patriot
cause among the Loyalists in western South Carolina instead.
Furmans success came to the attention of Lord Cornwallis,
who, after capturing Charleston in 1780, apparently offered
a £1,000 reward for Furmans capture.
Statehouse Report has partnered with USC
Press to provide readers with an interesting weekly
historical excerpt about the state. Each excerpt, which
is used with permission and not for republication, is
taken from The
South Carolina Encyclopedia, a 1,077-page book
published in 2006 with entries by almost 600 contributors
and edited by noted historian Walter Edgar. We hope
you enjoy this new feature.
An ardent champion of religious liberty, Furman met with
a group of dissenters at High Hills in 1776. Their deliberations
helped set the stage for disestablishment of the Church of
England in South Carolina two years later. In 1790, as a delegate
to the South Carolina constitutional convention, Furman supported
extending the right of incorporation to all denominations.
Furman greatly influenced the development of the Baptist denomination,
although his fellow Baptists sometimes disagreed with his
preference for centralized church governance. He was twice
elected (1814, 1817) president of the Triennial Baptist Convention,
a national organization of Baptists based in Philadelphia.
He was also a founder and president of the South Carolina
Baptist Convention (1821-1825), the first statewide Baptist
organization in America.
Unlike some of his Baptist contemporaries, Furman stressed
the importance of an educated ministry. He helped establish
an educational fund to train Baptist ministers and also called
for a national theological institution; the latter eventually
led to the creation of Columbian College (now George Washington
University). Other institutions that resulted from his influence
were Furman University, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,
and Mercer University. He died in Charleston of an intestinal
obstruction on August 25, 1825. He was buried in the First
Baptist Churchyard, Charleston.
of the same weather ahead
Another great cartoon by Bill McLemore:
Leadership needed to strengthen state
To Statehouse Report:
column and wonderful factual summary of the lack of leadership
and the pandering to voters conducted by our Governor and
the state legislature. They are all too weak minded and weak
willed to buck it up and face the facts that we must have
revenue to strengthen our infrastructure and deal with some
mounting problems in our state. These include crumbling roads
and bridges, overflowing jails and prisons and little to no
help for the mentally ill. We need leaders not tax cutters
and government haters. Unfortunately the dominant Republican
Party yields none of these.
-- Roxanne Walker, Greenville, SC
power makes sense, Barbara Measter, Seabrook Island,
for tax breaks, Bob Logan, Little River, SC
needs affordable medical help, birth control, Roxanne
Walker, Greenville, SC
good points in sex Ed column, Anne Badgley, Charleston,
insurance companies want to cancel policies, Dan
Norfleet, Summerville, SC
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