Every child in every part of our state deserves access to a 21st century education. Few will argue with the fact that South Carolina’s education system is in dire need of immediate reform. However, finding solutions that will produce real results and give our students the education they deserve requires extensive study from a number of perspectives.
SC education ruling demands adequacy, not just equity
Last November, when the Supreme Court ruled in the 21-year-old Abbeville v. South Carolina lawsuit that our state was failing to provide our students with a “minimally adequate” education, House Speaker Jay Lucas stepped up to the plate. He created the House Education Policy Review and Reform Task Force to begin researching ways to improve South Carolina’s education system. He charged us with submitting our recommendations to him by this coming January. Speaker Lucas encouraged us to think in terms of maximums, not minimums. Our students deserve the highest possible standards, not mediocre goals intended simply to be checked off a checklist.
The qualified individuals selected to serve on our task force make it much different from previous committees tasked with addressing significant challenges. We are comprised of former school administrators, Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman, legislators who are familiar with the state’s budget process and experienced private-sector job creators. Most importantly, we have five representatives who were hand-selected by the rural school districts that demanded action in the Abbeville lawsuit. By appointing each of us, the speaker has given us the opportunity to blend our knowledge and expertize to cultivate significant reforms that will put each student on a path to success.
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Speaker’s education task force includes districts that sued state
Since we began meeting in January, our task force has conducted four public hearings, where we heard from experts and openly invited concerned citizens to share their experiences. Two of these meetings were held in Abbeville and Dillon counties, where our children historically have been denied access to a high-quality education. Every single complaint we heard was documented and examined so that we can attempt to correct the failures in our system.
This summer and fall, our group divided into five subcommittees to take an even closer look into some of the problem areas. These groups have met eight times collectively since June and will continue meeting through October. We have studied ways to foster family engagement in early childhood education, implement a curriculum throughout every stage of learning that enables our students to be college- and career-ready and improve educator retention to ensure that our kids have the best and brightest teachers and administrators.
Hard truths, daunting challenges in SC school equity decision
The House Education Policy and Review Task Force is committed to implementing comprehensive education reform. We envision an education-delivery system that is superior to those of our neighbors. The Palmetto State has become a powerhouse for job creation, but we cannot continue to leave education reform on the back burner. Half-heartedly addressing this issue denies our students the opportunities to compete in the workforce. If we want to continue to recruit business to South Carolina, we must provide our children with the skill sets necessary for the employment opportunities that are readily available. It is a disservice to our young people and our state when our education system fails to equip them with the tools they need to succeed.
SC legislative leaders ask high court to reject its order
As chairwoman of the task force, I believe that we can lay the groundwork to fundamentally change our education system. We have left no stone unturned and will continue to craft our education proposal in a way that seeks to give our children access to one of life’s most valuable gifts.
Rep. Allison chairs the House Education Policy and Review Task Force and the House Education Committee; contact her at HEduComm@schouse.gov.