The state of South Carolina is taking over another local school district, declaring a "state of emergency."
The S.C. Education Department said Wednesday it is taking over Florence School District Four after it lost 32 percent of its students in the past decade "while still paying millions in administrative salaries and related costs."
"Now, with just over 600 students among its three schools, the district’s finances are in dire shape and require immediate action,” state schools Superintendent Molly Spearman said Wednesday.
The emergency declaration removes the district's school board, and allows Spearman to contract with nearby school districts and private companies for services.
Florence Four has had the state's highest financial risk ranking for the past three years, and the district was unable to submit a timely audit because of the state of its financial records, Spearman said.
Based in Timmonsville, Florence Four operates three schools — Brockington Elementary, Johnson Middle and Timmonsville High.
In 2017, the state took over Allendale County's school district, citing it as having one of the state's worst academic records. Last month, the state took over Williamsburg County schools amidst an investigation into its finances by the State Law Enforcement Division.
The state has struggled to address the needs of smaller, rural school districts.
In 2014, the S.C. Supreme Court ruled those rural schools violated the state Constitution by failing to provide each student with a quality education.
However, last summer, the state's highest court dismissed the rural schools' lawsuit seeking more money from the state, declaring school and state officials had resolved the dispute.
“Communities and leaders across South Carolina must plan sustainably for the future and always keep the interests of our students as the top priority," Spearman said. "It has become clear that the current model is not working here and taking away funds where they are needed most — the classroom."
Only 3 schools in Florence District Four
- Brockington Elementary School
- Johnson Middle School
- Timmonsville High School
Total student population: 600
SOURCE: S.C. Department of Education