EDITORIAL: Hands Off Our Schools
A resounding “no” to School
District Consolidation Law
State lawmakers are in the habit of filing useless, flawed and unnecessary pieces of legislation for each other to consider. The latest is H. 5318.
It should be withdrawn now, and never again see the light of day. It won’t be, of course, and if it passes the too-preoccupied-to-notice South Carolina General Assembly, it should be vetoed by the governor.
The bill orders by July 1, 2021, the forced consolidation of School Districts 56 and 55. It was introduced by Rep. Mike Pitts, of Laurens, who is unopposed for re-election this November. The first flaw in this worthless piece of “legislation” involves the transition team that will join the districts together.
The transition team does not include members of the Clinton City Council.
It has a bunch of other members - although the bill summary, for some inexplicable reason, says the transition team will be appointed by the board of District 2 and District 17, from Sumter county.
If the Laurens City Council has a hand in wiping out our school district, the Clinton City Council sure ought to be sitting at the table. Unless - the Clinton City Council did the right and sensible thing and said, “We will have nothing to do with this worthless effort.”
We suspect both the incorrectly named school districts and the snub of Clinton City Council are “cut and paste” errors that show how much thought was put into the proposed law.
The Legislature and State Superintendent Molly Spearman, formerly a teacher, wants to save an estimated $35 million to $85 million a year by eliminating school districts with 1,800 students or less.
If the District 56-55 School Consolidation Bill passes the state legislature, all proposed tax increases for schools in Laurens County will have to be approved by the Laurens County Council.
This is a clear violation of the spirit of Home Rule. Given the conservative view of the Laurens County Council, schools will never again receive more money, one year to the next. The county’s own budget, first reading, split on a 3-2 vote - they can’t even come to a consensus on their own spending, much less school spending.
When this bill passes, Clinton High School will become “the property” of the school district headquartered in Laurens. When this bill passes, the first school to be studied for closure will be Joanna Woodson Elementary.
But, most of all, there’s this: The SC Legislature which runs a prison system in which seven inmates were stabbed to death last month wants to eliminate school districts of 1,800 students or less.
District 56 has an enrollment of 3,022.
Why are we being targeted?
Maybe, “Representative” Pitts sees District 56 as vulnerable. When Thornwell Charter School builds out to 5K-12, District 56 will lose 80 students - and the accompanying state funding. Now, we’re down in the 2,000s - getting closed to the magic 1,800 number.
There’s that, and the fact that Republicans in state government continue to buy into the absolute lie of “our failing school system” and code their language with “alternatives” and “choice.”
Well, here’s a “choice” for you - We will fight anyway we can to defend District 56 against all aggressors. Take it to the bank.