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Home arrow Media Center arrow Minimally Adequate or High Quality
Minimally Adequate or High Quality

Greenwood Today
August 31, 2008

Is there a devil in the details?

South Carolina’s public education system has it's share of problems. Despite spending over 11,400 dollars per student every year we rank among the worst in the country by a number of measures. The decrepit condition of our poor rural schools along Interstate 95 lead some to dub the area the “Corridor of Shame.” 

The poor quality of the public school system in South Carolina makes national news at times. The nation is aware of the problems we have. Our school system has implications on our economy and the welfare of our citizens. If we ever want to get out of the cellar of underachieving in education we must fix our public school system.

 

So how do we fix a system that everyone knows is not working? Some say we have to start with our state constitution. There are those who say if we amend our state constitution, that will make our public school system better. 

The state constitution of South Carolina says that we will provide a, “Minimally Adequate” education to our kids. Those in favor of a change to the constitution say that the words, “Minimally Adequate” should be changed to “High Quality.” 

Back in March of 2008, a South Carolina Senate Judiciary subcommittee opened public debate on a proposed joint resolution to amend the 1895 S.C. Constitution's mandate to provide a "minimally adequate" education. S. 1136, sponsored by Sen. John Matthews (D-Orangeburg), would put a referendum before voters to change the Constitution "to provide that the General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a system of free public schools and shall establish, organize, and support public institutions of learning that will provide a high-quality education, allowing each student to reach his potential." 

There is a movement underway to collect 1 million signatures on a petition for this change. The hope is to show the state legislatures there is enough support for this change. State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex has signed on in support of this petition. You can find more information about this movement by going to, www.goodbyeminimallyadequate.com. 

State Education Superintendent Jim Rex said surveys have shown a majority of South Carolina residents want more resources and emphasis on education and are way ahead of policymakers. They see the effects of good education, and the question is whether they can influence lawmakers, he said. 

“I just hate to see us not making the investment that’s going to have a remarkable payoff,” he said. 

Does this sound like a good idea to you? I am sure we all want a high quality education for all the kids in South Carolina. As in everything there are two sides to this story. 

Changing two words in our state constitution should not be a big deal, right. Well hold on, the opposition to this constitutional change says there is a devil in the details and offer their take on this issue. 

Some, such as Senate President Pro Tem Glen McConnell, R – Charleston, says they wouldn’t support the amendment. He said he has no problem with making the states goal to give children an education to the highest potential, but he has a problem putting such wording in the constitution because of problems it would create. “It would be an erosion of our representative system of only those elected by the public being able to impose taxes on the public,” he said. Someone could sue the state and say it’s not providing a high quality education, McConnell said. If the courts agree with the plaintiff judges could order the Legislature to provide more money to schools, he said. 

“I’m not going to fall for that bait,” he said. It’s a Trojan horse. You can’t spend something you don’t have, and the public does not want general tax increases.” 

McConnell said he didn’t think 1 million people would sign the petition if they understood it would give the courts the authority to raise taxes. 

Now this gives you a tidbit of the information surrounding this issue.  We feel that our kid’s education is important enough to launch a series of reports surrounding many issues relating to education.  We only hope to help educate everyone and at least get more people knowledgeable on issues at hand.  Then you can decide where you stand. With the November election close at hand it important to understand some of these issues and where candidates stand on them. 

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