The 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.
Now, we hear that Jim Rex’s State Department of Education is unwilling to take direct over control of these failing schools, despite having run failing schools in the past as an attempt to “reform” them in accordance with state and national accountability laws.
From 1999 to 2007 the entire district of Allendale was managed by the state, but frankly, that didn’t seem to help.
Thursday’s State News Paper explains:
Two failing schools were called before the state Board of Education Wednesday. Fairfax Elementary in Allendale and Mount Pleasant Middle in Lee County avoided state takeover. But if they do not improve within coming months, the state still could take control, Rex added.
“There were enough extenuating circumstances that we decided to put (these schools) on a short leash but give them another chance,” Rex said.
At Fairfax Elementary school in Allendale hopes are being pinned on a new principal:
New Fairfax principal Dewey Carey, who has been charged before with reviving similar rural, low-income schools in Georgia, said he can turn the school around.
“By no means will I tolerate incompetence in the classroom,” Carey said. “You hurt too many children in the classroom if you do that.”
These two comments speak volumes about public education in South Carolina.
1. After years of sustained failure the State Superintendent analogizes the schools to misbehaving dogs. And 2. Following eight years of state intervention and $11 million in additional funding a high dollar out-of-state administrator has finally been recruited to enforce a “no incompetence” policy.
State government will NOT succeed where local government has failed. In fact, greater centralization of K-12 education through the State Department of Education has actually led to growing performance gaps between both black and white students, as well as between rich and poor students.
Nor is money the problem. In 2006, Allendale public schools served 1,704 students and spent $23,680,637.00 to educate them. That works out to $13,897.09 per pupil! The problem is the no-transparency, no-accountability, no-competition model of government schooling itself.
No one can seriously expect a state government which oversees the nation’s highest violent crime rate and the country’s third highest illiteracy rate to design and administer an effective and equitable system of schools. Rather than continue to fail these children by denying them educational opportunity, lawmakers ought to take a portion of the $13,800 per pupil allotment, and give it to parents for their children. Even just one-third of that money would be enough for a private school tuition (the national average is less than $5,000). This would mean more money for those who remain in public schools, improvements for all students through introduction of competition, and the ability of parents to control their children’s educational future.
But, thanks to politicalized bureaucrats, special interest money, and “Know Nothing” lawmakers looking to protect their turf, the greater likelihood is that public schools in Allendale and Lee will be given more public money to waste as they systematically destroy any hope of future academic, professional, or personal success in the lives of their students. All the while, Rex and others will continue to apologize for these “third world” educational conditions.