By Elder James Williams
This week I want to talk with you for a moment about our local educational system, you know the one where we have had a half dozen superintendents and interims in the last twenty years. It is also a district where we have gone through as many proposals as Carter has little liver pills. You remember the one, the proposal that was half-heartedly promoted to the public that would have allowed us to build all of our district’s schools for roughly three hundred million dollars (300,000,000). There have been a number of proposals introduced and some were simply talked about. In fact, the last referendum was basically predicated on the premise of a rezoning plan with heavy emphasis on a total MIDDLE SCHOOL concept. Interestingly enough this time around there has been very little said about those things to the public, although in a meeting with the superintendent, he indicated that the middle school concept was still a part of what he desires to implement if the funding is acquired. Personally, I hate plans that are driven primarily on the acquisition of additional tax revenue. It makes it appear as if without a pressing referendum our children are left with no sustainable options. While we are on the subject of options, why is it that the public only gets one partially considered option? One, by the way, that does not address many of the issues that many people are concerned about, but more or less reflects the pet projects that have been the focal point of some board member for quite some time. Seemingly, if schools along with various needs were mentioned in the last proposal that was presented to support a referendum years ago, then surely those schools and needs have grown over time. So, it would appear to be reasonable for those schools and needs to have moved up on the list of priorities. But instead, what we get is a new list of priorities that comes from a person that was not elected by the people to give serious consideration to how all children can be fairly represented with regards to what programs and facilities need immediate attention. So, what we get are projects being given greater priority, based seemingly on what areas are represented by who. Add to that the fact that under the last administration construction went forward, while academics went backward. When you consider those and other issues in conjunction with the fact that at present we appear to be working from a proposal that is ever changing, seeming to make it appealing to the public, without a great deal of specificity as to when and how we will do what. There is a great amount of irony in not telling the people much about specifically how you are going to move forward while boasting of being transparent. It might just be me and the way I think about things but seemingly education has become as bureaucratic as all other politics. Where more emphasis is put on money than any other part of our educational system. That leads me to ask the question, whatever happens to the notion of free appropriate education? I thought a free appropriate education was supposed to be an integral part of our system of governance. So maybe, instead of constantly bombarding the people with poorly thought out proposals, maybe it’s time for leaders to determine why our school systems aren’t being adequately funded. It is amazing how Republicans can get away with telling their constituents they are for less government control over peoples lives since they’ve been in the leadership of Congress the governments’ involvement in the lives of the people has grown exponentially intrusive. It seems as though they don’t do much outside of attempting to pass legislation that criminalizes everything from talking on a cell phone to making a number of nonsensical offenses felonies. In our state, they spend a ridiculous amount of time raising the fines on various offenses, while failing to pass MEANINGFUL ETHICS REFORM. It amazes me that they were the party that pushed and pushed for deregulation and now they find themselves in a situation where they must investigate one business after another for price gouging. Not to mention how big money has taken over our government. Southern politicians try to make our state look appealing to an industry by making the TAXPAYERS pay the full cost for providing a high quality workforce. If we can throw away almost (10) ten billion on reactors that never got built, then surely we can adequately fund education. Personally, I like a lot of what the Governor and Speaker are saying at present. But you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that what a politician says and what they do are often totally opposite. What every taxpayer must begin to question is why must we support REFERENDUMS to do what our tax dollars are already supposed to be doing? Taxpayers need to really pay attention when the Governor and Speaker tell you about our educational status. To me, it is unconscionable that SOUTH CAROLINA opted out of the universal standards that were established for educational performance, and chose instead to write its own standard, and then can’t meet it. That to me begs to questions exactly what giving them more money will do, except cause and allow those who are unaccountable to the people now, to become more arrogant and unaccountable. For a while, roads seemed to be the hot button issue, and seemingly the roads are getting worse. So hopefully now that education has become a hot button issue it won’t result in our school systems getting worse. Would someone please explain to me how you end up with a billion dollars of excess funds in the state coffers at the exact same time that local municipalities are having to try to build there own schools? It seems as though some of the responsibility must fall squarely on the shoulders of those who are responsible for prioritizing spending. Maybe the time has come, when nationally we should put some specificity on what a FREE APPROPRIATE EDUCATION really means. Because obviously someone did not get the memo. We pay taxes for roads, to only have government collect a road maintenance fee. We are taxed for schools, only to be asked to pass referendums! We pay for all of the information collected by the state and schools systems, only to be asked to pay a fee to get the information we pay to produce! I wonder out loud, if anyone has actually seen the plan that we are supposedly working from in moving toward growth and development in our school district, or does the fact that things change practically every time you hear a presentation from different sources, or do those changes dispel the notion that there is something concrete that can be read and assessed? If not, that would suggest that most of the hope for the growth and development of our school district is in someone’s mind. When will it be demanded from a paid board to develop a comprehensive educational plan that strategically lays out the intentions for the growth and development of our schools’ system? Without a comprehensive plan we will be left following the thoughts, insights, and concepts of whoever is fortunate, or maybe I should say unfortunate enough to get a job where you have no plan of operation, but must develop your own. So hopefully this superintendent will be around long enough to write his vision and make it plain. So my recommendation for you this week is that you think long and hard about where your child is being educated and try and determine if your child will have the benefit of modern technology and high-quality facilities. Or will they be grown before the schools in your area become a high priority. Every day now I hear about something new that our schools are introducing, which in some way sounds exciting, but I’m not quite sure that a lot of different things going on at different schools makes our SYSTEM of SCHOOLS any different than it has always been. I am still waiting for us to progressively move toward being a SCHOOL SYSTEM that provides equal opportunities for all students. While regardless of which side of town you live on, your child can have access to STEM and various other programs that put them on course for employment. Food for thought; How far away from being built are the schools in your neighborhood, and what does that mean for your children? How much longer will it be before we are able to determine if all of the innovations we spent a MILLION dollars on under the last administration are producing the desired results? Is there any correlation between which schools are doing what now, and which schools got the most and the least of those innovation dollars? When will we take advantage of the potential our vocational education department has to provide students who are not headed down academic pathways the opportunities to get training in some of the careers that will allow them the ability to become gainfully employed.
SINCERELY YOURS, I AM NOT SAYING, I AM JUST SAYING
ELDER, JAMES W. WILLIAMS
CHAIRPERSON, ADVOCACY ORGANIZATION, LIFELINEPLUS