Schools Designed for the Wrong Century
by: Joseph H. Kress
There is an article in “The State” newspaper that should alarm conservative taxpayers.
Dreher high school in Richland County is about to expand by 264,000 square feet at a cost of $40 million dollars. That is 80,000 more feet than the current school. This is in addition to the recently passed bond referendum package of $350 million. The school will have three stories, tennis courts, practice fields and 550 parking spaces for students and staff.
The taxpayers are asked to fund this monster which has little to do with education but one hell of a lot to do with filling the coffers of the contractors, real estate companies and the developers who wish to sell lots surrounding the school.
The parking lot is meant to accommodate children whose parents can afford to purchase cars for their wards and pay for their insurance so that the soft muscled, maturing darlings won’t be obliged to contaminate themselves by using the school bus or work up a sweat riding a bike or god forbid walk to school.
Visualize all those homeowners who are to be replaced for blacktopped parking lots and tennis courts.
One would think something is wrong with a system that sacrifices the elderly whose children went through the public school system twenty, thirty or more years ago, yet each year more is asked of them. They are forced to support a school system that has become bazaar in its waste, administrative bloat, councilors, curriculum advisors, and a host of support personnel that don’t teach. All appear in a matrix that contributes more to the lack of student learning accomplishment than the reverse.
One must agree with parents who refuse to place their children in a system that may contaminate their morals; may prevent them from attaining their dreams because of experimental teaching methods, perennial new math and new reading experiments accompanied by brand new books filled with the latest innovations from la-la land on the left coast. In this century, there shall be no hand-me-down books while liberal publishers and their booksellers have anything to do about it.
These parents also are afraid that their precocious child with a 150 intelligence quotient is bored easily in a non-challenging environment and may be administered a calming drug as a substitute for discipline. A teacher is not allowed to dispense pills. That most formidable task can only be accomplished by a highly paid nurse who makes more than full time instructors. Based on student population, schools may have as many as six nurses assigned.
So these two classes of citizens are extremely unhappy. Both are paying through the nose for their predicament. But what about those who remain within the system?
The latest results show that in Richland County less than 50% of education dollars are spent for instruction. Other counties are not much better. Dorchester County returns 56%, no great shakes, but considered better than most. It has operational expense annually of $5,650 per child, excluding bond indebtedness (2001-2002 figures). Dorchester County Schools absorb 73% of all taxpayer dollars collected by the county.
Newberry returned 57.2%, the highest for direct support of the students. Lexington County devoted only 35%, Greenville $43.8%, Greenwood 51, 41%. These figures were reported by the South Carolina Policy Council which gathered the figures from the SC Department of Education (200-2001 data).
Although this essay uses Richland County as an example, the fact is there is some-thing wrong with the entire SC education system. Tennis courts and parking lots in exchange for tax producing property is really minutia in comparison with the overall expenditures. Architecturally designed palaces described by the Richland School Board as state-of–the-art are being built at a time when the entire country is facing a slow-down, maybe a severe recession leading into a depression. There are now economic expectations of deflation; meaning schools currently under construction will be grossly overpriced. Where do these so-called community leaders live, on another planet?
In the real world, industry depends on profit and can’t end up like Enron. Office buildings are constructed of permanently designed structures at half the cost these school administrators are willing to pay using taxpayers’ money.
Not only Richland County needs a taxpayer association to keep the spenders and “taxers” within reasonable bounds. The problem is there are so many involved in feeding from the trough of the school system. Bankers, bond salesmen, developers, contractors, lawyers, those employed by the school systems and vendors who sell to the system are the driving forces. It can be stated without expecting an argument that the chambers of commerce encourage school construction to lead the way for new developments, a means to encourage population growth and urban sprawl. The motto is:”...if you build them, they will come.”
These monstrous schools actually are nonconductive for learning. Smaller schools to house a student population no larger than 1,000 students have been the trend of the future. The schools made of less costly materials, such as steel buildings which have proven to be just as durable, can be located in neighborhoods within walking or bicycle distances.
Modern communication could supplant the need for multiple councilors, curriculum advisors, and assistant principles for every so many students, etc.
The list of non-teaching cadres of people within the present system could be greatly reduced through a centralized administrative/operations complex where requirements could be met as needed based on what teachers advise, not some bureaucrat that is looking for more subordinates to justify his or her existence. Two-way television, instant messaging, the use of Palm devices…all could bring the administration of schools into the 21 century, providing teachers have the power to use 19th century discipline.
Instead, all these functionaries can devise is demanding more and giving less. They fully support the cumbersome and outdated S.C. Board of Education which is headed by what can only be described as a union boss, an educrat – not a visionary. The school systems are corrupted by the unions who create the cumbersome and destructive guidance coming out of the Department of Education at the federal level. The constant, unfunded demands coming out of Washington have transferred the burden to the local communities. It would be better if states refuse federal funds and ruinous dictates of the political commissars.
Besides the practice of developing new theories of what and how to teach children to read, write and do math, the most recent trend now is to have children refer to the founding fathers of our country as “the founders” so as to be gender neutral. Homosexuals are to be accepted and treated equal to heterosexuals as suitable for parenthood in the school books for first and second graders. “Karen has two Daddies” is the title of a book for little readers. And any inference to God in the classroom is prohibited.
Hundreds of billions of dollars are being spent on education, yet there is hardly any improvement. In the southern rural areas, schools are a disaster, but not the reason that one may think. The record is so abysmally poor because the majority of the children have single parents who are just emerging from childhood themselves. No one likes to admit it, but the national problem can’t be solved unless the morals or rather the lack of morals of our society are reversed. That won’t happen unless violence and sex programming on TV is eradicated and God is given a place in these children’s lives.
The Greenville Plan
Joseph H. Kress, Corresponding Secretary, DCTA
The salaries of the non-teaching staff within the School District Two amount to a total of $7,114,242. To break the amount down by the names as were printed by the Summerville Journal Scene, February 6, 2002 would take up too much space, but here are just a few examples:
Present salary Increase since 2001
Superintendent of District
Two Schools $110,677 3.83%
Ass’t. Superintendent 96,705 2.35%
Coordinators, Middle School Curriculum 70,018 2.77%
State/Federal Grants 74,784 2.62%
Parenting 57,236 5.00%
GATE/Honors 70,018 2.77%
Guidance specialist 58,413 3.19%
Elementary Curriculum 72,264 3.1%
Testing 59,824 5.81%
Special Education 70,113 2.80%
Personal Services 63,576 8.22%
Teacher Evaluation 73,576 2.67%
School to Work 68,202 20.15%
Partial Sample of the total $945,406
The above does not include the numerous Directors which average just above $80,000/ year or $483,616, those in classified administration such as the food director; director of business, director of transportation and facilities; the lowest salary is $58,071 with a 5.90% increase and the highest, the director of facilities, $82,802 with a 2.82% increase. The total in this partial breakdown is $483,615 per year and there are still the principals and assistant principals’ salaries amounting to $1,833,262. Teachers’ salaries are yet to be added, but their incomes are reasonable considering a 10 month work year plus holidays, few of whom approximate the low end of the administrators’ incomes.
The hospital and pension benefits are not included in the above figures.
What’s the point? The point is these salaries are not in the poverty range of underpaid social workers and they will fight tooth and nail to hold on to their positions while the rest of those outside the school system are being laid off, while plants are shutting down and pay checks, instead of being increased, are reduced.
In Dorchester County, Superintendent Pye is considering the Greenville Plan to keep the status quo while the NEA on April 16th gathered a large crowd on the State Capitol steps demanding a 40% increase in the state sales tax. The cheerleader was the head of the S.C. Department of Education, Inez Tenenbaum, a union organizer in mufti.
The Greenville Plan, through a legal outrage, was foisted on the citizens of Greenville County to circumvent a second battle over a huge school referendum which was handily beaten down by the taxpayers. The School Board, which is autonomous, caused to be formed a private corporation to act as a holding company where the total properties owned and paid for by taxpayers were deeded to the corporation and then leased back to the school administration. The corporation then used those properties that were unencumbered as collateral to float bonds to purchase new schools. Needless to say, the taxpayers were assessed the cost of the rent and the interest on the bonds and they couldn’t do a thing about it.
After the largest increase in property taxes in Greenville’s history, (an accumulated debt of $2.2 billion) the taxpayers again this year are to cough up an additional $100 million more dollars to keep the corporation afloat, since that was part of the original agreement whereas the taxpayers are to be obligated in case of default.
This is pure legal fraud and the cabal on Greenwave Blvd. is considering it. It must be stopped!
It's Time to Rethink About Schools
By Joseph Kress
The federal government’s budget is out of control. Congress has been on a spending binge and this administration has done nothing to slow down the outflow of funds. The budget is in the red and funds promised for schools have been diverted to the war effort.
As the federal budget is in the red so too is the South Carolina budget in the hole. The governor has promised that proceeds from the lottery will be applied to higher educational institutions, but refuses to set a specific percentage for that purpose. The most recent figures show that the lottery proceeds fell short of expectations by $3 million this past month. People without jobs or worried about the economy don’t throw away their cash. Only a small portion of the lottery proceeds is earmarked for K-12.
The South Carolina Department of Education has less money because of fiscal restraints and divides the education money according to the number of children who take part in the free lunch program. The more affluent school districts receive proportionally less than those who are in rural areas or areas identified as having a significant population with low incomes.
Although the state’s allocation for District Two’s schools was about $2,867,552 short of expectations, the Superintendent Joseph Pye was more than pleased that the County Council approved just about everything that he asked for in his budget. The county council approved more than the $2,141,289 shortfall outlined in the proposed budget. The magnanimity of the council provided nearly a three million dollars increase above the previous year’s budget.
So who pays to make up the difference between the shortfall of state funds and the magnanimous increase? Of course you have already figured that out. The difference will be made up from local property taxes. The bill to the homeowners will be an increase of 20 mills or $80 on a $100,000 house to cover operations and 21 mills to cover capital expenditures or $84 more dollars on a $100,000 house. Total increase: $164.00. But hold onto your seats or rather your wallets for there is a real household budget buster increase just around the corner.
Regardless of the reasons reported in the newspaper, it’s so big that Superintendent Pye won’t allow it to be voted on this November - when most voters show up to cast their ballots. He wants a special vote, sometime in 2003, when the majority of voters will not show up. Evidently, he learned from the prior experience of others that disapproval of a bond referendum is more likely when more people cast their votes than when only those who directly benefit show up. Besides, it would be even more difficult to ask for more money in November when the voters anticipate an increase in their tax bill for year 2003.
The Bond referendum will be in the amount of $150 million dollars to finance the construction of another high school, one grade and one middle school. The selling point will be future increases in student attendance and that it won’t be cheaper later on. Interest rates are the lowest in fifty years; and to postpone construction will only increase the borrowing costs.
The public must face the fact that too many interests financially benefit from a school district that has a higher performance rating than the surrounding areas. There are of course the employees of the school system, then there are the realtors, contractors, lawyers, land speculators, mortgage lenders, bankers and those employed in the construction businesses. A school system that shows improvement in the test scores is where parents want to send their children and to do so they purchase homes within the boundaries of the district.
This seemingly beneficial progress results in escalating prices on homes, traffic congestion requiring more roads, additional police and fire protection, more apartment houses for those who can’t afford a home, more trailer parks for the same reason, and finally a need for even more schools and much higher taxes.
The general public does not partake in civic matters, unless it affects their jobs. The employees of the school system are well aware of the importance of attending county council’s budget approval meetings. The Parent /Teacher Association, the majority of the teachers, their bosses, the school administrators all converge at the county council chambers to voice their support for upcoming budgets. What is lacking at these meetings are those who do not benefit financially.... The ordinary taxpayer has already paid the cost of schooling several times over...long after his or her progeny have graduated. Meekly they stand aside as if traumatized by the bleating “It’s for the children, we can’t abandon the children and their education no matter the cost”.
The time is near when those who are on fixed incomes can not afford the taxes and the maintenance for their homes. They will be forced to give up what they worked for all their lives to satisfy the ever-increasing demands of an out of control system.
Eventually because of the congestion, high taxes, and demands for more support of the infrastructure, Summerville and the surrounding area will no longer remains attractive as a place to live and a reverse migration takes place. Even though there will be fewer taxpayers, the payments on the bond indebtedness still go on. To make up the difference of the reduced number of taxpayers - taxes will then have to be increased.
What can be done to avoid this from happening? The answer is impact fees. The sad fact is that those interests who gain from supporting the school system are the very people who are fighting impact fees because it will slow down home construction. The present governor has not forgot their political impact and steadfastly refuses to allow the counties to assess impact fees on new construction, especially home construction.
The Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute, whose missions are to prepare young women for effective conservative leadership and to promote school choice opportunities for all K-12 children in America, states in its recent publication that the public is paying private prep school prices for public schools.
The Institute uses the example of Virginia:
The state provides more aid to localities for education than any other governmental purpose. Virginia’s reported average per-pupil-spending - $6,821 in 1999-2000 – is incomplete. In a common and deceptive practice, the state omits costs of facilities, debt service, summer school, food services and some educational programs when calculating average per-pupil spending. When the total expenditure figures are used in calculating the average per-pupil spending for the aforementioned budget year, the cost in Virginia jumps to $8,426 or about a quarter of a million dollars for each classroom of 30 children.
The report emphasizes the fact that with all this money spent to help children, the test scores remain poor in comparison to states that spend less. The report shows that South Carolina in 1998 reported per pupil spending as $5,656 whereas actual pupil spending was $6,941. This amount has increased substantially since then. There are some SC districts that approach $9,000 per student in 2002. This figure includes the total cost including buildings and all other expenditures such as debt service and other aforementioned items.
In Virginia sixteen school districts spent over $10,000 per student – a cost rivaling tuition at elite private prep schools. Six of these highest spending school districts are in Northern Virginia. One school division spends more per public school student ($14,475) than Governor Warner pays in private school tuition for his children to attend Burgundy Farm Country Day School ($14,225).
Obviously the answer lies in establishing a fundamental approach to schooling with emphasis on highly trained teachers, not those who are products of the defunct, bureaucratic and outmoded teacher colleges. The school curriculum concentrate on how to teach, but neglect the subjects those future teachers are expected to know. Science and math have been nearly eliminated in most of the state teacher colleges. Giving increased pay to teachers who are ignorant of the subject matter serves no purpose other than to reward incompetence.
This lack of knowledge of the hard core subjects is the cause of a softening curriculum where social studies take precedence over algebra or chemistry. Sex and equal rights and other soft-core subjects receive emphases at the pinnacle...the U.S. Department of Education where teacher unions have their profoundest affect.
In the private arena, there is no mandate that all schools must march to the same drummer. The course subject matter is chosen from a wide selection and not by a bureaucrat out of Washington D.C. that finds the Constitution objectionable or that Washington was rated number four in importance to our nation with President Roosevelt, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt taking precedence in that order. This was revealed in a recent poll of high school youngsters age 12 – 18.
The following excerpts were taken from Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute report:
“If higher spending produced higher student school performance, achievement should have risen dramatically over the past three decades. Spending on U.S. public schools rose from $3,645 in 1970 to $6434 in 1995 (in real 1997 dollars), yet National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) reading scores for 17-year olds during the same period remained virtually unchanged (285.2 in 1971; 286.9 in 1996).
“According to Harvard economist Caroline Minter Hoxby, daughter of Carter Administration undersecretary of education, explains why her research indicates the U.S. education sector is in a productivity crisis:
School Spending divided by a measure of a pupil’s achievement has declined by 50% in the past 30 years.
Schools don’t face enough competition.
Competition is too weak to be an effective break on costs.
“Citing Milwaukee public schools as an example, Hoxby notes that “schools can improve if they are under serious competition.
“The Milwaukee public schools that faced the most competition from the vouchers improved student achievement radically – by .6 of a standard deviation each year. That is an enormous, almost unheard- of, improvement. Keep in mind that the schools inquisition had had a long history of low achievement. Yet they were able to get their act together quickly.
“Tuition Tax Credits:
“Growing concern about public school costs and productivity has made school choice a mainstream issue in recent years. Six states currently allow tax credits or deductions for out-of-pocket education expenses or contributions to K-12 scholarship programs for low-income students. “Similar legislation was considered in 31 states in 2001, up from 18 states the previous year.
“A Virginia Institute for Public Policy analysis by Dr. Carlisle E. Moody, the College of William and Mary, and Dr. Jerry Ellig, Mercatus at George Mason University, concluded that, on the basis of $6,194 per-pupil-spend-in, tuition tax credits would “save the state and localities at least $656 million in operating costs each year.” Moreover, High growth localities “would reap additional savings as tuition tax credits reduced or eliminated the need to build new public schools in response to rising enrollments.” [End of quoted report]
If we could be assured that by adopting private vouchers, the government would not insist that school curriculum and subject matter be linked to vouchers the use of this payment is preferable to tuition tax credits. Unfortunately, the law must be changed and that would take years to accomplish, since there is a host of lawyers waiting to test the constitutionality of the plan.
Escalating public school costs raise legitimate questions about the sustainability of the present public school system. Unless significant changes are made to address the problem the system will collapse from its own weight. The following remedies may avoid such a catastrophe:
Build modular, low cost, schools that can be located within neighborhoods. The buildings can be constructed of metal and can be relocated wherever needed.
Petition the governor to lift the prohibition on impact fees.
Match the student curriculum with local businesses and establish a school/work plan so that the subjects taught in school matches the needs of the businesses. Not only business, but medical centers, lawyer’s offices, etc. could be coordinated. Pay could be minimal or in some cases none at all – the only benefit is for the student to be exposed to real life conditions.
Forget about one application fits all when it comes to education. We’re not all the same, we can’t all be college educated; we need emphasis on technical training in fields where we can make a good living.
Never accept a teacher that hasn’t a rounded education that includes math, science and literature. The exception is the teacher who is an expert in tech courses like carpentry, plumbing, computer sciences, etc. and the skills to explain the subject matter.
Students that don’t want to learn hinder those that do. The use of field camps such as was established by the CCC camps prior to WW II would be a solution better than throwing them to the wolves.
Insist that every incumbent teacher meet high standards; otherwise offer paid courses to upgrade their skills. A teacher that can’t teach because of lack of knowledge in the subject is worse than none at all.
Use zero base budgeting every year, so that each department is prepared to justify expenditures.
Employ outside auditors every five years.
Use merit promotion as the only way for promotion. The criteria is the end product...how well did the students learn the subject matter.
Allow experienced teachers to run their own show without interference. Give them the authority to discipline the child. The teacher should be able to obtain all the help needed to accomplish the task. If, in the end, the teacher fails in educating the students, fire the teacher.
The pay scale of the novice teacher, one without experience, is $40,000 per year or higher. This includes medical and pension benefits. Even at that steep price, the pay scale is insufficient to attract graduates from top universities who have high grade point averages. Of these only the dedicated who don’t have their sights set on large incomes might apply. Therefore, it is paramount that the SC teaching force be locally grown and their education funded so long as they attain averages no lower than B; extra benefits for those who study math and science.
Pray that our SC students are able to make a better living because they were offered options of school choice. In the end it’s all about competition.
Grab your Wallets
BY Joseph H. Kress
June 5, 2002
Other than the reporters, members of the school board and the district’s administrative staff, I and one other gentleman were the only interested people to attend the presentation of the District Two’s operations budget. This is indicative of what we can expect when both the operation and capital (new construction and additional bond indebtedness) budgets are presented before County Council at 6 p.m., June 18th for approval.
In order not to burden your readers with two columns of details, the bottom line is that Dorchester County taxpayers better grab their wallets.
What is proposed is an increase in property taxes of $80.00 per $100,000 house just for operational increases or 20 mills, and an addition $132.00 or about 21.5 mills to cover additional bond indebtedness for new schools. That’s a total of $212.00 per year increase for the school portion of the county budget for those living in School District Two. There was an increase of 278 students for 17, soon to be 18 schools. Each year, the school administration over estimates the number of new students and the County Council approves the school budget before the state provides its portion of the funding. The submission of current budget requirements is based on the prior year’s budget plus the usual added increases. As an aside, Mr. Pye was quoted in the SJS that 50% of ninth graders in Summerville High don’t graduate. Later, in the recent operational budget presentation, he said the figure was 38%.
Every year, the Superintendent of District Two’s schools presents a bare-bones budget. It includes mandatory cost of living pay and performance incentives, bonuses and salary increases for the staff and teachers. New teachers, now, are paid on average $50,000 per year to include medical and pension benefits. Administrators’ salaries range from $60,000 to the $110,594 paid to the Superintendent and $94,484 for the Ass’t Superintendent positions. Each increase in pay at the top has a ripple effect all the way down the pay scales. The salaries paid to the top-level administrators do not include their medical and pension benefits. These benefits are not stipulated in the SJS’s report on salaries. In other words, with times as they are, the salaries and benefits are nothing to sneeze at. And don’t forget increase pay means increase in retirement benefits.
How much of these salaries are paid by the state and how are salaries determined? How much does the County contribute towards salaries? How much of a raise will the Director positions receive in the proposed budget? What law states that raises in salaries are mandatory other than cost of living?
Mr. Pye is going to present another barebones budget. He is going to tell the members of county council that cuts were made to include Curriculum Specialist positions amounting to $400,000 in savings. Will he also mention that a new Curriculum Director was hired and that an Elementary Coordinator position might be upgraded to Director level? Theoretically at least, these specialists provided direct help to teachers than higher paid directors. How much will the new Director’s position cost us? If the Elementary Coordinator becomes a reality, how much will that position pay in excess of just a regular coordinator specialist. This smacks of musical chairs with bonuses thrown in.
The administrators and staff located on Greenwave Boulevard made the decision to purchase a $130,000 house to be used for programs currently located elsewhere in the district. The question is why, when public statements are made about programs being under-funded, $130,000 is spent for the purpose of convenience, not necessity. This money would go a long way to satisfy the current under-funding requirements.
The district recently announced the selling of bonds to purchase a shopping center to house Adult Ed and to comply with the state mandate on transportation. If the district had continued to pay down debt service and had not sold bonds for the shopping center, would taxes have been reduced? How much? Was the transportation issue a mandate or a recommendation? If a non-funded mandate, did the district officials appeal to our delegation for help? If not, why not?
The Coastal Center was an excellent operation to take care of the severely mentally handicapped children and its staff had throughout the years provided excellent and loving care for those placed there. The federal government changed all that when it mandated that these children were to be placed within the school system to have as near normal a life as possible. Health and Human Services funded the Coastal Center, but when the transfer took place the HEW funding didn’t and the state and the federal department of education was to make up the difference. Guess what? The program is under funded yearly and the children are in effect warehoused except during lunch and exercise periods. Many of the children require nearly one on one attention by special education teachers who are obliged to perform toilet and feeding duties. I previously included in a letter to the editor that in one instance it cost the taxpayers $17,000 per year just to transport one child back and forth to school.
Because there are fewer students receiving free lunches in District 2 than in districts with a poorer population, the state’s distribution of funds is based on the numbers receiving free lunch. Consequently, Dorchester Two receives less supplemental support per student than, for instance, School District Four or the students in Charleston County. The more affluent areas therefore receive less state and federal funds. That still doesn’t have a bearing on the main complaint of mandating services and not paying for them. The school board, the county school administrators, county council and the taxpayers need to sue the state for full funding of these burdensome requirements. If that fails, cut out the requirements in proportion to what isn’t provided by the state. We need a backbone and that includes not only the people running the show, but you and me. The public should be up in arms about these under funded mandates and it is about time that we ask what are we getting for $6,000 per year per student. If this budget is approved, it will be near or above $7,000. Soon, it will be less expensive to send a child to college than to K-12.
Only 50% Graduate
According to the Summerville Journal Scene’s report dated 2/20/02, only 50% of those students entering the 9th grade will graduate four years later. The national news reported on the same day that Cleveland, Ohio’s high schools are graduating only 50% of their students. All hell broke out in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on February 21st. A large crowd of Ohio students and their parents chanted “We want choice!” Now, these people were not yelling about choice regarding Roe vs. Wade, but rather the right to have a choice to allow children to enroll in parochial or private schools because acceptable education is not being attained in the public school system. At the time, the Supremes were hearing oral arguments regarding the use of vouchers, funded by taxpayer dollars, to be issued to individual families so that they are given a choice outside the public school system.
It’s too bad parents and their offspring from Dorchester Two didn’t join the Ohio crowd because you can bet that the national teachers unions and the usual courtier of self-interest groups, including state and federal bureaucrats and their lawyers were fully represented. The ACLU and People for the American Way were also there misrepresenting the Constitution and reading into it what our forefathers never intended regarding the separation of church and state.
The failure of our schools is a direct result of a bloated bureaucracy within the public school system at the Federal and State levels. It’s layering at its worst. If one doesn’t understand what is meant by layering, one should review the high salaries and pensions and number of non-teaching positions housed in Dorchester Two’s administrative building on Greenwave Blvd. One should also review the non-teaching functionaries in all the offices of all the schools in the district. Then one should check the private, for profit schools and the religious schools and be awakened to what can only be described as a bureaucratic monster funded by taxpayers that produces results that should cause a person to weep.
What is the purpose of a school board if it is tied to a failing system? These elected members are supposed to have the best interest of the students. In almost every instance when the public proposed charter schools, the school boards in South Carolina disapproved the proposition. There are only two charter schools functioning in this state because of the mindset that somehow the status quo should never be challenged but protected. Isn’t it about time the school boards challenge the State Department of Education and HHS at the federal level, as well as our congress to stop making non-funded demands on public schools? Isn’t it about time that parents who are products of a lousy education system get involved, demand excellence and go back to school or take courses so that they are able to encourage and help their children at the preschool level and beyond? Otherwise, they are condemning their offspring to a life of poverty and degradation - forced to live off the public dole.
It is truly amazing that the Governor insists that gambling money from the lottery be dedicated to grants for college students when only half of high school students are graduating because of the system’s failure.
The hunger for good schools is so great that when an area in a county is recognized for having a better school system, the new arrivals migrate to that area in such great numbers that the system becomes overcrowded and the quality of education suffers. The explosion of requirements for new school buildings and larger teaching staffs coupled by increased taxes and an unsupportable infrastructure such as roads, water, sewer systems and congested housing exacerbates an already overburdened municipality. Unless the public supports minimum lot sizes and rebukes those who encourage growth at any price, the future of this county and the area around Summerville will deteriorate and become another Cleveland, Ohio.
The Lottery and School Funding
Will the Lottery cause the lowering of standards for South Carolina’s schools? In Georgia, any high school student that graduates with a cumulative average of 3.0 or better is eligible to receive free tuition at state-supported colleges or universities. Since 1993, 425,000 Georgia students received $860 million worth of HOPE dollars. Recently the Georgia Student Finance Commission released results from a study that shows the retention rate of students receiving the HOPE is troubling. The average HOPE retention rate for the 1997-1998 Freshman class was 36 percent, which means 64 percent of freshmen did not score high enough to keep their scholarships.
In Del Kalb County, three out of four scholarship recipients lost them by their sophomore year. Only 13 percent of the graduates from McNair High School were able to retain their scholarships. Fifty-six percent of Cobb County’s 1997 graduates failed to maintain their 3.0 average. These figures are duplicated throughout the state. Several factors were the cause for blame, according to educators, for the troublesome retention rate. Many blame grade inflation. There’s an immense amount of pressure on teachers to hand kids’ grades they may not have earned according to Marietta Principle Gordon Pritz. Many policy makers believe the HOPE Scholarship program is flawed because it only requires a “B” average and not a minimum SAT score. The average SAT score for Georgia students was 969, which is second lowest in the nation.
Guess what state is the lowest? South Carolina’s SAT average is 966. On August 30, 2000, the Post and Courier’s headlines were grim: “STATE LAST IN SATs.” The 1999 combined SAT scores for the nation’s college admission decisions and combined scores, range from 966 in South Carolina to the high of 1054 in Washington State. The average for the nation, last year was 1016. This year, the combined scores nationally were 1019 and South Carolina’s SATs dropped to 954 VS 966 last year.
Dorchester District Two’s SAT scores rose by six points, Berkley County increased by 22 points and Charleston County had a 16 point increase. On further investigation of the number of students who took the tests, the figures are grim for those in certain areas and those who didn’t have the 20 or more academic credits and still took the tests.
The number of students who took the tests may supply the answer as to why the scores increased. Out of 472 students in Dorchester Two who took the test, 45% had an average score of 998. Students with 20 or more academic credits who took the tests in Dorchester County Two, 171 students had an average score of 1055. Charleston’s Schools for 409 students with 20 academic credit averaged 1054; Berkeley with 141 takers averaged 1064. Dorchester Four with 15 takers, averaged 827.
Obviously, those students who took the tests and received poor scores were not prepared, but aside from that observation, too many students who received poor scores were concentrated in schools that are not doing the job of teaching. Dorchester County School District Four stands out as a case in point. Only 15 students with 20 or more academic credits took the test from Woodland High School and received an average score of 827. Fifty-eight students from District Four took the test or 41% of the total had an average score of 809. In other words, those with 20 or more academic credits averaged only 18 points higher than others who took the test. This is a sorry record that reflects directly on the overall education students are receiving, not only in that particular school, but the overall record of the School District.
District Four is at a definite disadvantage. Already, taxes have reached the limit that area taxpayers can afford to pay. The district needs increased funding to pay for improvements and to attract better teachers. Much of the problem lies in parental interest demanding that their children do homework as well as direct contact with teachers and the school administration. The state is also at fault . The state provides funds in proportion to the number of students within a school district and the funding at the district level. The more taxes collected , the higher the state’s funding. The solution is to combine the two Dorchester Districts and the state increases its part of the funding. Otherwise, the poorer schools like District Four will forever be doomed to produce students fit only for third rate jobs and a life of poverty.
In 1998, South Carolina enacted the Life Scholarship Program that allows students with a “B” average and a minimum SAT of 1100 to receive free tuition at a state college or university. This program is funded without lottery revenues. It is gratifying to know that South Carolina’s legislators and the S.C.. Department of Education realized Georgia’s folly before the fact and established a minimum SAT score plus a requirement that the students must have a “B” average.
In an attempt to win votes for a state lottery, the governor wants to lower the standards by removing the SAT requirement. If this happens, the potential for grade inflation, like in Georgia, will be great and the integrity of the program compromised. South Carolina has too many colleges as it is. If the lottery funded education program standards are lowered beneath Georgia’s requirements, the state will land up with the highest number of tax-supported, sub-performing students attending third rate colleges in the nation.
Many lottery supporters want to fund the Life Scholarship Program and the elimination of the SAT score requirement. This is of great concern to the Dorchester County Taxpayers Association, since it does not want tax dollars wasted while the state experiences an economic downturn with a result that the lottery will not be self-sustaining. When that happens, undereducated students graduating from high schools will fail at the same rate as Georgia’s students fail during their first year of college. Instead of the lottery funding these poor investments, the taxpayers will pick up the slack.
Two noted economists, Don Shunk of the University of South Carolina and Gary Shoesmith from Wake Forest, predict the Southeast region will lose its long-held edge over the national economy by year’s end. Several economists say that the Southeast is on the down-side of the growth cycle and they believe the indications for slower growth are much stronger than last year. The economists believe the region’s rural areas are suffering from a sputtering manufacturing sector. Since taking office, Governor Hodges presided over six consecutive months of increasing unemployment rates. The region’s smallest economies are being squeezed, and the manufacturing sector that fueled much of South Carolina’s past growth is now shrinking, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article.
J.H. Kress, Corresponding Secretary
*Information was taken from the Boston Globe, S.C. Policy Council, The Post and Courier.
The Layering Process
The bureaucracy, the layering, the unconscionable bloat, the scaming of our pocketbooks is vividly revealed by the Summerville Journal Scene’s expose in its February 6, 2002 issue.
The cost of schools amounts to 73+ percent of Dorchester County’s budget to educate approximately 15,000 students and here is the reason why:
The following non-teaching professionals will cost the taxpayers $7,114,242.00 this year. This does not take into account the salaries of the teachers who actually are involved in the process of educating students. With only a few exceptions, teachers are paid less than the lowest paid administrator, coordinator and director. These salaries do not include medical and retirement benefits.
This total includes $110,594 for the Superintendent’s and $94,484 for the Assistant Superintendent’s yearly salary.
Below the top positions are the middle school curriculum coordinator, $70,705; specialist in obtaining state and federal grants, $74,784; parenting, $57,236; GATE/Honors, $70,018; guidance specialist $58,413; elementary curriculum $72,264; testing $59,824; special education, $70,113; personnel services, $63,576; teacher evaluation, $73,576; school to work, $68, 202 (a 20% increase since last year).
Total bill for the above is $945,406
Plan and communications, $80,862; personnel, $83,012; pupil personnel, $80,965; adult education $75,113 (a reduction of 6.34% from last year); high school/ vocational curriculum $83,434; school/community relations, $80,229.
Total bill: $483,615
Director of Food service, $64,117; director of business $72,664; Director of Transportation $80,227; Director of facilities, $82,802; Comptroller, $58,071 (a 5.90% increase above the previous year); maintenance supervisor $70,113.
Total bill: $427,994
Salaries range from $73,876 to $78,668
Total Bill: $605,725