|Senator Matthews: Amendment Mission Statement for S.C. Education|
, T&D Staff Writer
State Sen. John Matthews, D-Orangeburg, is seeking to elevate the state's constitutional requirement for public schools to provide only a minimally adequate education.
Matthews has proposed legislation to change that clause in the state constitution to read: The state "will provide a high quality education, allowing each student to reach his highest potential."S
tate Sen. John Matthews, D-Orangeburg, is seeking to elevate the state's constitutional requirement for public schools to provide only a minimally adequate education.
Matthews has proposed legislation to change that clause in the state constitution to read: The state "will provide a high quality education, allowing each student to reach his highest potential."Matthews views the change as a mission statement for public education in South Carolina. He says changing the phrasing to reflect a higher standard will inspire policies to make that a reality.
However, the bill itself will not mandate increased funding.
"We know minimally adequate education is not sufficient for the 21st century. We've set the bar higher with teacher certification and PACT tests. The state has to set that bar higher for itself," Matthews said.
If the bill makes it through the General Assembly, voters will have to approve the amendment.
Matthews noted that Bud Ferillo, who directed the documentary "Corridor of Shame," is putting together a campaign to assemble a million signatures in favor of the bill.
Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5 spokesman Greg Carson may well be one of those signing.
"This is a great piece of legislation by the senator. Perhaps this will be the beginning of things becoming right and truly equal in public education," Carson said.
Matthews noted the phrase "minimally adequate education" was originated long ago in 1895 by the South Carolina Supreme Court. That was the same year the state constitutional convention approved Jim Crow laws to disenfranchise black voters.
The Bowman senator believes times have change dramatically since that phrase was drafted and wants to align South Carolina with states such as Florida and Virginia that have strengthened their state's constitutional obligation to public education.
"We've got to change minimally adequate education to a high-quality education to allow every child to meet that potential," Matthews said.
Last week, Matthews said 25 people testified in favor of the bill before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee. State Sen. James Ritchie, R-Spartanburg, who chairs the subcommittee, is in favor of doing something similar, according to Matthews.
Matthews said it is not necessarily a goal to pass the bill this session, but he hopes to have it pass by 2009.
This bill is not the first time the phrase "minimally adequate education" has grabbed headlines.
In 2005, S.C. Circuit Court Judge Thomas Cooper ruled the state's early childhood education programs were not adequately funded, therefore falling below the minimally adequate threshold. That prompted the General Assembly to establish a pilot program for 4-year-old kindergarten.
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