K12 News and Policy Roundup

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With the start of South Carolina’s legislative session looming, journalists across the state are focusing on K-12 education. That’s because spending on public education (averaging $11,480 per student last year) is the largest single item in the state’s budget. “Public Education” (often confused with the narrower concept of “public schools”) is also a big concern for parents, businessmen and community leaders, all of whom are concerned with inequity and under-performance in South Carolina’s public schools. Among the themes recently reported on:

BUDGET WOES: The already tense debate over budget balancing and spending efficiency is becoming more contentious. The State Newspaper recounted a war of words between State Superintendent Jim Rex and fellow Democrat Representative Harry Ott. Rex wanted a salary freeze for teachers and bus mechanics, Ott wondered why Rex was not willing to cut his own staff before slowing pay adjustments for classroom teachers.

JUDICIAL ACTIVISM: Orangeburg Times and Democrat critically examined the ongoing debate over a bill (and possible constitutional amendment) pushing for a re-write of state educational mandates. The Spartanburg Herald Journal sternly editorialized against the proposal.

STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT: The Independent Mail in Anderson reported on the annual 50-state rankings of k12 student performance by Education Week. A less balanced article appeared in the Sumter Item. Political bloggers at FITSNews and the Palmetto Scoop also weighed-in on the apples-to-apples rankings of state education policy, noting that South Carolina received high marks for its standards, but earned “Ds” and “Fs” in the student performance and spending categories.

PROGRESS IS RELATIVE: The Greenville News has written on new findings by the federal government indicating that in 2003 “only” 15 percent of adults in South Carolina are functionally illiterate, down from 20 percent in the early 1990s.

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