State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman says that “the stars are aligned” for real education reform. It’s about time.
In 1993, the poorer school districts in South Carolina sued the state, claiming that the Legislature had failed to adequately fund its poor, rural districts, resulting in sub-par education for the students.
Fast forward through the Circuit Court, the S.C. Supreme Court, and more appeals, to 2014 and the final Supreme Court ruling in favor of the plaintiff school districts — 21 years in which two generations of children have suffered from inadequate and crumbling school buildings, bus rides that are too long, fewer highly qualified teachers (especially in the key areas of science, technology, engineering and math) and fewer resources, including all-important technology support.
How many children have graduated from these schools over the past 21 years with less than an excellent education simply because they had the misfortune to grow up in the wrong ZIP code? These students are now young adults who must navigate the challenging world of work with fewer tools and resources than their more fortunate contemporaries. The moral, human and economic costs of this dreadful delay are incalculable to our state and to the individuals in these school districts.
The time is now. The Legislature has heard testimony throughout 2014 from a wide variety of expert witnesses, including former governor and U.S. Education Secretary Dick Riley, former and current state superintendents of education, district superintendents, principals, teachers, business leaders, community members and professors of education. We have more than enough information. We need the legislative will and the funding to implement solutions.
The League of Women Voters of South Carolina urges the Legislature and the governor to make the positive resolution of the Abbeville v. South Carolina case job one for the upcoming legislative session. Attorneys for the plaintiff districts are willing to work with the state on reasonable timelines. Bickering over who’s in charge is a further waste of precious time. Our children and this state can’t wait any longer. Once and for all, let’s do the right thing for the right reasons.
Jo Anne Day
Co-President, League of Women Voters of South Carolina