Our beloved state faces many important challenges — one of which is education. The recent ruling by the S.C. Supreme Court in the Abbeville School District case requires that the General Assembly address not just the funding of K-12 education, but our state’s entire educational system.
Not one single child in South Carolina should be penalized by where they live and go to school. Every child deserves the opportunity to receive a quality education regardless of where they live. For far too long there has been a piecemeal approach to addressing the unequal quality of education delivered in districts across South Carolina. The General Assembly can either begin to work on a solution or spend its time talking about how the court did not have the authority to do what it did. I, for one, am in favor of finding a solution.
The S.C. House of Representatives and the S.C. Senate will begin the 2015 legislative session on Jan. 13. It will be a time of opportunity for the House and Senate, as well as the people of South Carolina. The question is will we take advantage of the opportunity or just spend the session watching people talk and put off dealing with real issues?
Will it be easy? No. Will it be done in one year? No. Is there a magic solution? No. No one person, no one party, no one special interest group has the answer. It will take a bipartisan effort by dedicated legislators working with the school districts and the new state superintendent of education, as well as the people of South Carolina, to address the issue. It will not be easy nor will it be done quickly, but it can be done.
The underlying factor facing school districts in South Carolina that sometimes goes unrecognized is poverty. More than 70 percent of the schools in South Carolina have more than 70 percent of their students on free and reduced lunch or are Medicaid eligible. In addition, some of these districts see a 50 percent turnover in teachers each year. There are poor schools in every school district. It will take systematic changes in the way we teach children to address how to effectively equalize the quality of education in South Carolina — not just financial resources.
Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” The quality of education a child receives affects not only their future but the future of South Carolina.
I hope that instead of spending the 2015 session just talking, we seize the opportunity in the Senate and work in a bipartisan manner to meet the challenge given to us by the Supreme Court and give every child in South Carolina their chance to change the world.
Sen. Nikki Setzler