by GAVIN SMITH || Let’s be real – South Carolina’s public education system has failed us. And before we start pointing our fingers at teachers and administrators, may we be reminded that these are the very individuals who have for years been lobbying lawmakers to resuscitate a system in which they see firsthand is failing our students. Our state leaders have allowed education to take a back seat year after year, ultimately at the expense of our students.
However, it’s been made clear that this is not acceptable on the watch of Gov. Henry McMaster. Boldly, the governor brought light to this issue and drew a line in the sand during his State of the State address, stating that “being perceived as weak in any part of our state in education is not good, but being perceived as not committed to fixing it, is disastrous.”
Furthermore, the governor highlighted his encouraging partnership with House Speaker Jay Lucas and Senate Leader Harvey Peeler, and went on to outline the product of their work together. The product, being dubbed a blueprint for moving education reform forward, is a multi-faceted effort that mobilizes multiple state agencies and, ultimately, is a plan South Carolinians should get behind.
First and foremost, the plan proposes consolidating school districts in an attempt to lower administrative costs and reduce waste. By doing this, money allocated for educating students will finally reach the classroom, rather than being tied up in administrative fees at the district office for positions that are without a doubt duplicative.
Furthermore, the governor is putting an end to teachers being placed on the back burner, which has led to historically low teacher recruitment and retention rates. The governor is proposing a 5 percent across-the-board raise for teachers. This alone will bear fruit for students, will propel our teachers’ salaries above the Southeastern average, and will make it easier to recruit and retain quality teachers.
Around our wealthiest areas — the suburbs of Columbia, Greenville, and Charleston — our students are doing pretty well. They are being intellectually challenged and spurred on to higher education or bright futures in the military or work force. Their peers in the rural parts of our state have been left to fight over the remaining scraps of funds because of a broken funding formula.
This proposal addresses that issue head on and calls for the state Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office to completely re-work the formula and make it work for every child.
The reality is, we talk about jobs, but what company would want to invest in a state without an educated work force? We talk about health care, but doesn’t quality of education correlate to better health? We talk about hundreds of issues in the State House every year, but at the core of every issue is education. Without a quality education for our children, all these other issues are little more than promises broken before they’re made.
This proposal calls for many more actions, and, to be clear, it isn’t perfect, but it’s a leap in the right direction. When we put our children first, when we stop treating education as a chore and start seeing it as an opportunity and an investment, there is no limit to what South Carolinians can achieve.
With Governor McMaster’s proposal for education reform, and his effort to show our teachers, our students, and our state that it matters, we are on the horizon of making it an even greater day in South Carolina.
Gavin Smith is the CEO of The Inspyre Group, a South Carolina-based public relations firm.
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