SC Education Reform News and Views

muckraker cartoon

Editors at the Charleston Post and Courier blast Jim Rex for offering platitudes, not real reform of failing school systems:

State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex describes some of the state’s initiatives today in a column on our Commentary page.

They include identifying and helping students at risk of dropping out, providing on-line learning and involving parents in developing an education plan for each child.

Notably, he doesn’t say what educators have said for too long — that systemic changes will take years, and that citizens should just be patient.

To the contrary, Dr. Rex says, “South Carolina’s on-time graduation rate … is among the most urgent problems facing our state in terms of both human potential and future prosperity.”

Our recent reports on reading problems in Charleston County schools cited the experience of Ridge Smith, who made it all the way to the ninth grade in Charleston County schools while reading at a third-grade level. Patience isn’t the answer to that kind of problem.

Ron Barnett of the Greenville News reports on the funding fight between high-dollar bureaucrats and classroom teachers:

As the Greenville County School District faces the prospect of laying off and furloughing teachers to deal with state funding cuts, it has 73 non-teaching employees making more than the state superintendent of education and 18 — including one principal — making more than the governor.

The school board has directed the district superintendent to review every aspect of spending for possible cuts, including administrative positions and salaries.

There are more than 5,000 teachers and about 200 administrative positions in the district. Records obtained by The Greenville News show there are 73 administrators in the district, including principals, making more than state Superintendent of Education Jim Rex, who’s paid $92,007.

Thirty-two district employees make more than $100,000 a year, according to the district records.

Michele McNeil of Education Week reports on the 46-state adoption of common academic standards in math and English language arts:

The four states not on board, as of Friday, were Alaska, Missouri, South Carolina, and Texas…

…In South Carolina, a spokesman for Gov. Mark Sanford said that the state has a separately elected superintendent of education, and that Gov. Sanford, a Republican, deferred to Superintendent Jim Rex to make the decision.

“The governor does not have a role in implementing education policy,” spokesman Joel Sawyer said.

But even though Mr. Rex, a Democrat, has signed on, Gov. Sanford will still not sign the agreement, Mr. Sawyer added.
Pete Pillow, a spokesman for the education superintendent, said the state education department is already preparing to pursue the common standards even if South Carolina isn’t officially part of the larger group.

Carolyn Click of the State Newspaper reports on Midlands school districts tightening attendance zone enforcement (despite efforts by State Superintendent Jim Rex to expand open-enrollment):

The Richland 2 school district began this year to require annual proof of residency. Parents or guardians can document their current addresses by providing a monthly utility or cable bill, a land line phone bill, a lease agreement or real estate contract.

“I think here at Blythewood High School they have responded very favorably,” Drakeford said. Blythewood, like many other Richland 2 schools, is urging parents to bring the proof when they come for registration conferences.

The district has set an Aug. 3 deadline, but district spokeswoman Theresa Riley said the district hopes to collect a majority of proofs by the last day of school on June 5.

“We want to get as many done now so we can verify them and check them off to make sure they are going to the right school and the right district,” Riley said.

Riley said the district decided to institute the annual ritual to help with budgeting and drawing attendance lines.

Editors at USA Today voice their support for School Choice and push President Obama to advocate for this proven reform:

By federal measures, students at 12,978 U.S. schools are failing to improve adequately — 13% of the total. Giving them another option, by vouchers or by other means, provides an escape route and pressures public schools to improve.

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