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Home arrow Media Center arrow Move Up to 'Quality'
Move Up to 'Quality'

'Minimally adequate' sets bar too low for S.C. schools

The Sun News
Nov. 27, 2008

Does a good public education consist of teaching kids how to read, write and perform basic math calculations? Of course not, but that's all the S.C. Constitution requires of the public schools. Small wonder that such high-performing school districts as Horry County's are the exception in South Carolina.

All public schools should challenge all students to learn much more than that. The only reliable way to apply such pressure uniformly is to fix the Constitution. To that end, a growing coalition of S.C. legislators, educators, business leaders and public-school supporters to amend the Constitution's education article.

Their quest would delete the 1895 constitutional language that the S.C. Supreme Court has interpreted to require that children receive only a "minimally adequate" education. In its place would be inserted language to requiring the state "to provide a high quality education, allowing each student to reach his highest potential."

This simple switch would jolt the entire S.C. educational system - those who run it, those who learn in it and those who pay for it - with vastly increased expectations.

"High quality" schooling, first and foremost, requires teachers and administrators to believe that every child has potential that time in school can help him or her read. Legislators, the educational bureaucracy and local school boards would be legally accountable for defining a "high quality" education and providing educators with the resources to deliver it.

A Rock Hill teacher who signed a petition urging legislators to ramp up for a public vote on the amendment in November 2010 envisioned the change this way:
"As a teacher in the public schools, I support any action that will help me better serve the children in my class. If I am to be held accountable for student success and/or failure, I'd like to have every available asset and the support of the state to do my job well."

Already, we can hear some readers and legislators saying, "Uh oh. This 'high quality' business is really a ruse to extract more public school money from the taxpayers."

That's not necessarily so, as the state and its 85 school districts already spend billions per year on K-12 education. While an amended S.C. Constitution education article might force legislators to abandon their over-reliance on the sales tax to develop other school funding sources, the real pressure would be toward repurposing money already in the pipeline. The "high quality" language would provide legislators political cover for taking state money away from bureaucracies used to having it, even though it is spent to poor educational effect (i.e., wasted).

The end of minimal adequacy, in short, would create a no-excuses environment forcing all concerned - parents, teachers, legislators, school boards and the educational bureaucracies - to sustain a relentless focus on student achievement. Such a focus supposedly exists now but really doesn't - because the doctrine of minimal adequacy allows those so inclined to lapse into the slacker mentality. And there are slackers in every part of the system.

Readers can visit www.goodbye minimallyadequate.net to learn more about this most worthy of constitutional initiatives. Those so inclined can add their names to the petition, increasing pressure on the legislature to act on the initiative.

It isn't an exaggeration to say the state's cultural and economic sustainability depends on this initiative's success.

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