Randy Page on K-12 Funding and Failing Public Schools

The Greenville News (July 9)

State needs a fairer method of funding education

In South Carolina, public spending on K-12 education is a messy jumble of overlapping allocations that fund numerous programs and initiatives. Money goes to categories, not to students. The different ways in which the government collects money (sales tax, property tax, transfers, income tax, grants and bonds) tend to drive how the money is spent, never the other way around. While the sources of revenue are designed to be diverse, the funding model for actually delivering dollars to the classroom ought to be simple.

…Rather than giving money to school districts via categories and programs, South Carolina should adopt one universal formula for all K-12 educational spending. A single weighted funding formula, specifically adjusted for the characteristics and situation of each child, offers built-in transparency and equity. It will free local educators to provide a more appropriate and responsive learning environment. This focused model of weighted per pupil allocation is commonly called “backpacking” or “smart funding.”…(more)

The Times and Democrat (July 22)

Allendale, Lee schools illustrate state failure

Public schools in Allendale and Lee counties may be the absolute worst schools in all of the United States. They are certainly the lowest performing in South Carolina, where the statewide average SAT scores and graduation rate linger at or around 50th each year in national rankings.

Two of the most troubled are Fairfax Elementary in Allendale and Mount Pleasant Middle in Lee. According to state-issued school report cards, only 9 percent of Mount Pleasant Middle students are proficient in math and English. At Fairfax, it’s just 6 percent.

The State Department of Education refuses to take direct control of these failing schools. Such a move would not be unprecedented. From 1999 to 2007, the entire district of Allendale was managed by the state.

South Carolina’s State Superintendent Jim Rex isn’t helping much either.

Commenting on the move by the State Board of Education not to intervene he explained: “We decided to put [these schools] on a short leash but give them another chance.” Comparing failing schools to misbehaving dogs is neither insightful nor productive. In fact, it’s downright degrading…(more)

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