South Carolina legislators reconvene for the new session today, and they face a number of pressing issues. But the one that citizens want them to deal with first, before even roads, is fixing education in our state. According to this recent poll, more than half of South Carolinians say fixing schools should be legislators’ top priority.
It’s now been over two years since the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in Abbeville that many school districts are not providing a minimally adequate education and ordered lawmakers to act. This is the year that change must happen for the sake of our state’s students.
Let’s take a look at where lawmakers should start:
Because of the new federal guidelines set forth by the Every Student Succeeds Acts, South Carolina must create new school accountability standards. Lawmakers should enact a robust system that assigns easy-to-understand rating to each school in the state based on student proficiency and growth standards. I recently wrote about this topic in The State newspaper.
Next up: We need to ensure quality teachers fill all of our state’s classrooms. This is a particularly challenging task in rural parts of our state. Lawmakers should consider ways to incentivize teachers who demonstrate creativity in the classroom, and who seek out challenging classroom environments. We need to recognize that our very best teachers are needed in schools that often have the hardest time recruiting teachers.
Lastly, lawmakers should also recognize the good that high performing charter schools are doing in our state. Charters often provide parents with an option and students with better resources. Examples of success abound, and public opinion reflects that with a clear majority of South Carolinians favoring charter schools. Lawmakers should consider additional funding measures that support high quality charter schools, perhaps most importantly, by easing the financial burden placed on these schools because they have to bus students who sometimes live on the opposite side of town. More state funding is needed to support student transportation to and from high quality charter schools. That way charters can spend more money where it’s most needed—within the classroom.