The “Achievement Gap” is a name used to describe the persistent and unjust disparity between test scores among different racial and economic groups enrolled in South Carolina’s government schools.
New data have been released, and some are hoping it constitutes a reversal of this troubling long term trend.
The political publicists at the State Department of Education spun it this way:
South Carolina’s “achievement gap” between white and African-American students mirrors the rest of the nation’s, according to a federal government report released today. Although mathematics and reading test scores have improved for both ethnic groups, the gap between the two has decreased only in math.
But looking past the soundbites, the data do not seem to mesh with other, independently gauged, indicators. Continue reading
“I think that might be seen in South Carolina as defensible.”
-Superintendent “Dropout Jim” Rex on lifting the sales tax cap on cars, planes and boats
From the time that cuts to the state budget were first considered a necessity, Jim Rex has opposed any actions that would take money from the public education establishment. Despite the fact that South Carolinians in every income bracket are struggling to deal with a negative economic climate, Rex has continued to put on an aggrieved air, and acted as if education bureaucrats are bearing the entire weight of the state’s economic woes. Continue reading
One-size-fits-all government schools: YOUR tax dollars forcing a square peg into a round hole.
With the help of a $191,000 federal grant, an after-school program will be able starting up at an Aiken County elementary school.
“Aiken Families in Transition,” the grant recipient, will take in up to 125 students who need after-school help in a wide variety of academic and critical-thinking subjects.
According to a State Department of Education press release, Superintendent Rex expressed encouragement for the program, stating, “ Students who are struggling in class can get a real academic boost in a well-run after-school setting.”
Through a variety of grants and private contributions, some of the needy students in Aiken County are going to get the instruction they need to compete and excel. For these students, who undoubtedly have a wide variety of learning needs and aptitudes, this help is going to come from outside a traditional, public school classroom.
In his televised “State of Our Schools” talk, Rex addressed an uncomortable question posed by The Voice: If schools are so broke, why are many administrators running up bills at a “Leadership Conference” in Myrtle Beach that they fully intend to hand off to the taxpayers back home?
Besides trying to minimize the question with condescending laughter, Rex pointed out that only 800 bureaucrats were in attendance, unlike the 1800 that attended last year. Additionally, representatives from some of the state’s most challenged schools were in attendance, and the issues facing them must be addressed in the setting provided by the SCASA ( South Carolina Association of School Administrators) “Leadership Conference.”
Rex finished off by pointing out that a significant portion of the state’s tourist revenue comes from Myrtle Beach, and that cancelling the “long-standing” SCASA conference would be detrimental to the tourism industry.
So taxpayers should pony up for district bureaucrats to take a sea-side vacation because they don’t want tourism revenues in Myrtle Beach to decline? Even in times of economic prosperity, people would balk at this kind of expense ( if they knew) in the name of “education.” How much more now, when teachers are being laid off, and parents are being warned that class sizes and their property tax bills could be increasing?
Some administrators chose not to attend, and to spare local parents the burden of paying for the trip. Others felt that attending was important enough for them to pay for the trip out-of-pocket. Tough times call for tough spending practices, and trips to Myrtle Beach don’t fit that description.
How has Jim Rex and his $3 million staff done?
That’s a good question, and one that parents and taxpayers throughout South Carolina are asking.
Consider these “areas of concern” from South Carolina’s own Educational Barney Fife (the Educational Oversight Committee, or “EOC“) annual report:
Eleven of the twelve school districts rated At Risk in 2008 have been rated either At Risk or Below Average for
at least the past three years.
Only two of 50 persistently underperforming (i.e., rated Below Average or At Risk for four years) and two of the 16 Palmetto Priority schools elevated their ratings;
Fifty percent of charter schools are rated At Risk;
Improvement in some middle schools was matched by declines in others;
Reading performance continues to trail other content areas;
Almost one-fourth (23.7 percent) of our schools serve school populations in which 90 percent or more students are poor. In contrast only 47 of over 1172 schools serve student populations in which 30 percent or fewer students are poor. Continue reading
The Voice has never been shy about calling out “Dropout Jim” Rex for using taxpayer funds to reward and retain his loyal political consultant, Zeke Stokes (or f0r personal politicking)
In fact, after posting the numbers on how much Rex was paying his former campaign manager, questions from several news sources had Rex scrambling to show just how invaluable his consultant was in educating children in South Carolina.
Now, South Carolinians can see more of Rex’s financial dealings with his trusted consultant.
On Rex’s most recent Ethics Commission filing, the following shows up as a “contribution” from Zeke Stokes–
On the same filing, under “Expenditures,” Rex lists a payment to Zeke Stokes for $30.69 for “Printing 2010”-
That’s funny, it’s the same amount! Continue reading
Full Size Photo: Jim Rex and Sandy Smith were against reform before they were for it (but only once they knew it wouldn’t pass)
In the South Carolina House, Representative Jeff Duncan has been a leading advocate of the common-sense reform called “smart funding” which aims to allocate money exclusively on a per-child basis. This formula, also termed “backpacking” is designed to ensure that public resources follow the child as he or she ascends through the grades, moves from one school into the next, or transfers between schools.
On the other end of the spectrum, Superintendent Jim Rex is taking the position that ever more money with ever less oversight is the only solution to the countless problems plaguing his one-size-fits-all government schools.
The fact is, funding levels do not, and never have, correlated with public school performance in South Carolina, despite the fact that failing schools (those termed “dropout factories” by Jim Rex) spend nearly $20,000.00 per student. Still, a simplification the irrational and wasteful funding “mechanism” is long overdue.
Smart funding would be a good first step in the right direction. Continue reading