Sign for a Change
by Clay N. Middleton, Charleston City Paper
May 20, 2009
A great debate has been going on regarding the issue of a tax credit voucher system that some of our elected officials are unfortunately in favor of. Another debate we cannot let get away is the urging of citizens to support changing the state's constitution in regards to education.
Bud Ferillo has drawn attention to the "minimally adequate" standard that we have in South Carolina regarding educating our children. Ferillo's 2005 documentary, Corridor of Shame, highlighted the crumbling schools along South Carolina's I-95 corridor. These schools were presented as evidence in a lawsuit brought against the state by 36 school districts for failing to provide "minimally adequate education" to all students.
Mr. Ferillo is trying to obtain 1,000,000 signatures by next April to demonstrate the strong public support that exists for changing a standard that has hindered the development, lowered the investment, and lessened the achievement for those who cannot vote: our children.
Legislation to change the South Carolina constitution must be passed by a two-thirds vote in both the state Senate and House of Representatives in order to put the amendment on the ballot in the November 2010 general election. The petition at goodbyeminimallyadequate.com will be used as leverage to get those in the General Assembly to pay attention to the voters they ought to be representing.
This seems like an easy task, but, as I have said time and time again, common sense is not common. An amendment that would raise our current standard from a minimally adequate education to one that prepares all students to reach their full potential is clearly needed.
While money should not be thrown at our educational system without concrete objectives and goals, accountability, and measured results, adequately funded public education is the oxygen needed for our children to live. Words have the power to influence one's thoughts and thus one's actions. If the language changes in our state constitution, our children, parents, and teachers will know that this state supports public education and is serious about fundamentally making a long-term commitment to improving it.
Imagine a state where we spend more to educate a child than we do to house an inmate. Imagine a state where elected officials are focused more on having a vision and providing a better future for its citizens than on the next election and their personal agendas. Imagine South Carolina being among the top tier in the country in education rather than at the bottom. I believe this can happen with the right leadership at each level of government and with the public being informed and empowered.
How can we expect to produce well-rounded and first-rate citizens by providing them a second-rate educational system? A high quality public education is critical to the development of our children, the security of our neighborhoods, and the strength of our economy. Children who attend high-performing schools are less likely to turn to crime and drugs. The result: better jobs and wages for our children, lower unemployment and crime rates, and fewer poverty-stricken neighborhoods and prisons.
It will take a movement to take the "minimally adequate" language in our state constitution and change it to "high quality education." Parents must be involved in their child's school throughout the year and not just when problems occur. It will take a change in the funding formula for our schools to have the same basic foundation of funding. Cities must be strategic partners in the effort to support public education, reward teachers, and ensure that our students are equipped to learn.
If you are interested in ensuring that the future adults of your community are productive members of society, you can begin by going to goodbyeminimallyadequate.com and signing this important petition.