By Joel Allen, ABC News Channel 15
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Is a minimally adequate education good enough for South Carolina students? A group of the state's best teachers says no, and they want to bring about a change.
Toilet stalls with no doors. Graffiti on the walls. Rusting water fountains.
A group founded by the state's Teacher of the Year for 2009 gave disposable cameras to students in struggling school districts and told them to take pictures of what they saw at school.
Much of what they saw was not pretty.
"You have a lot of backed-up sewers, you have schools that are 80, 100 years old, that are aging. The wood is rotting out and the floors, you can see the earth through the floors in the classroom," said Bud Ferillo, who produced the TV documentary "Corridor of Shame" that drew attention to problems in the state's struggling rural school districts.
Those districts were involved in a long-running lawsuit against the state, resulting in a ruling that said the constitution required only a minimally adequate education.
At a teacher forum in Myrtle Beach Thursday, one award-winning student from West Florence said zip codes and county lines shouldn't determine whether a child gets a good or bad education.
"This is an equal state, these are equal times, there should be equal education for everybody and that's one problem the state has to address," said West Florence senior Benton Wise.
Teacher of the Year Jenna Hallman wants to change the state's school funding formula.
She challenged other top teachers to collect signatures on a petition to change the state constitution and require a higher standard than minimally adequate.
She says the schools have to keep up with a changing world.
"These kids are our future, these children are the ones who are going to make a difference, they're going to solve the problems that we have inadvertently created," Hallman said.
Students collected 21,000 signatures for Hallman's petition at Forestbrook Elementary School in Horry County. Hallman hopes to collect a million signatures this year.
Eight school districts were involved in the suit against the state, including Dillon, Florence and Marion counties.