Rumsey: it’s time to stand up for the children

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A grave injustice

By ANNA MARIE RUMSEY – Guest Columnist, State Newspaper, (5/13)

A grave injustice is being done by so-called leaders of the black communities. By trashing Sen. Robert Ford’s support of the private-school choice bill, they systematically tear down any chance of advancing children’s education and ignore the fact that South Carolina’s education system is not able to serve students in any meaningful way.

We spend millions of dollars yearly in support of a system that at best is socially promoting students in the poorer counties. Where do these students end up? On the welfare rolls, unable to read, relegated to menial jobs that do not allow them to support their families. And so the cycle repeats itself, generation after generation.

Sen. Ford’s private-school choice bill might effectively serve some of these children, and who are the first ones that rage against it? Those very same “leaders.” Shame on you. You have the chance to show your backbone like Sen. Ford did and say “Enough is enough,” but instead, you send those children with the greatest needs back to the status quo.

Exactly what is the status quo in South Carolina? One of the highest drop-out rates in the nation; a near 50 percent on-time graduation rate — deplorable by anyone’s standards. Standardized test scores that appall anyone able to interpret them. School buildings that should have been maintained yet were allowed to fall into disrepair in the home counties of many of these leaders. The sum of all this glorious non-education and diploma mills is a demoralized system that neither educates our children nor supports special-needs kids, crowded trailers that house students and a pitiful excuse for the way our tax money has been used.

I can hear the chorus of teachers yelling that this is an unfair assessment of South Carolina schools today. But, friends, it’s time to stand up for the children. They deserve better. They don’t need to be donating dresses to the State Museum, and having their state’s shamefulness flashed across the nation for all to see. These children need some people with a backbone and compassion for them, people who will once and for all take the time to understand that without radical change, there is no hope for them.

The private-school choice bill is only a window of opportunity. Reforms are needed throughout our system, but they will be addressed only when people’s eyes are opened to the fact that we don’t have to live this way: never being able to attract high-tech, skilled jobs; incredibly large welfare and public assistance rolls; lack of motivation by the local school boards to take charge of their own and put the schools into good repair. The cycle of tragic education misfortune can be broken; we must start somewhere.

I urge not just the leaders but parents everywhere to ask yourselves: “Is my child getting my tax money’s worth?” Is your child receiving the motivation and growing a desire to finish school? Would you have had better chances in life if your education had been broader, more intense, more able to teach you in a way that you could understand? Has the vicious cycle already made itself known in your family?

These questions should start you on an introspective evaluation of the past 50 years or so of what our system has offered. Perhaps you’ll come to the conclusion I have: Nobody cares about the children. Nobody seems to understand that it cannot be business as usual: Throw money at it, raise taxes, throw more money at it, raise taxes, with the result being that the only successful students are those coming from the more metropolitan areas, where parents demand more of their school boards.

We need to stop making it about the politicos and finally make it about the children. They are the ones getting the short shaft that continues and shapes the way they live their lives, their attitudes toward disciplining themselves to learn and in essence, shaping the future. Put your posturing aside, and understand the reality of how we have stolen from the past generations. Sen. Ford has finally had a reality check and understands that someone has to stand up and advocate for children all over our state. Can someone just love the children of our state enough to consider that a bill allowing children to make it outside of publicly built walls will benefit everyone? It’s just one step, but it could be so meaningful and impactful.

Ms. Rumsey, of Blythewood, taught K-12 music and science in Georgetown County and at the John De La Howe School.

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