A really good Thursday!! Had two excellent budget meetings in the North Central area at North Central High. Good discussion and feedback! Also got to catch a little bit of the track meet and partake of the JROTC concession stand cuisine for dinner. (There’s nothing better than a concession stand hot dog!) There was also a super turnout at the first “Arts Extravaganza” at Lugoff-Elgin High School! Some very good performances by our students! I hope this is something we can do every year! Thanks to all the teachers and staff who made this happen and to Tim Hopkins of the District staff for getting everything coordinated!
I was extremely proud to hear about members of our maintenance staff helping Habitat for Humanity on its current building project over on Gordon Street in Camden this past Saturday. These guys perform magic every day in our buildings, and the folks from Habitat raved about the work that they did on the Habitat house. No surprise there. Great work and a outstanding example of “stepping up” for all of us!
One of the great myths that usually bounces around while the General Assembly is in session is that only 44 cents of every dollar spent on public education goes to the classroom. This myth, purveyed mostly by the proponents of tax credits for private schools, is based on the way the state accounts for education spending, which really only includes teachers, substitutes, paraprofessionals and materials as “Instruction.” Anything else, including technology, guidance, library and media, extracurricular activities (including athletics), nurses and health room assistants, principals and assistant principals, school office operations, etc. are classified as “Administration.” Obviously, many of these areas are directly instructional, but all of them have a critical impact on the day-to-day quality of a student’s educational experience. This myth, while technically correct based on how state accounting works, is not an accurate picture of reality on the ground.
I was really impressed by the quality of the particpation of the Camden Middle School students at this past Friday’s University of South Carolina Science Fair. CMS was the only school at the event whose students provided the judges with written lab reports and also the only school whose students used laptops to show the judges how the project had progressed. Also a great picture in this past Saturday’s State of CMS student William Perry at the Fair. Winners will be announced around April 10. I’m extremely proud of these students and the job their teacher have done to work with them!
Following is an email I sent to House members of the Kershaw County Delegation:
As the floor debate on the School Choice legislation begins, I would suggest the following points be considered:
Private schools would not be fully accountable for their performance. While the current choice bill requires schools to publish results of students’ standardized tests, private schools would not be required to use the same standardized tests as public schools. Nor will there be any real oversight to the testing process to assure that all students are tested and that the testing environment is regulated, as is the case for public schools. Further, private schools would not have any obligation to keep working with students who are not achieving at an acceptable level, or to even accept high risk students. The “accountability” in this legislation is more show than substance, and would not promote anything that resembles accurate comparisons.
If proponents of this legislation actually believe that it will truly benefit economically disadvantaged students, as they keep saying they do, the following additional provisions should not be a problem for them:
- A specified benchmark as to the number of economically disadvantaged students that would be served through this legislation from each county in the state. If the benchmark in each county is not met in three years, the legislation would automatically sunset.
- A requirement that the academic progress in reading, writing, and math of economically disadvantaged students served in private schools match or exceed the progress of economically disadvantaged students in public schools, as measured by whatever test is required by the state for public schools. If performance of the private school students does not meet or exceed that of like public school students at the end of three years, the legislation would also sunset.
An independent consortium of researchers from our state universities could be charged with collecting and analyzing the data involved. If School Choice proponents object to these provisions, any sensible person would need to ask why they are afraid of transparency and accountability
Thank you for your consideration of these points and for your support of public education in our state.
I was already as pleased and proud as I could be that Baron DeKalb had been chosen as a finalist for the Dick and Tunky Riley School Improvement Council Award, and it was great fun to be at the conference over at Dreher High School this past Saturday to see the school recognized with the other finalists. It was absolutely icing on the cake to hear Baron DeKalb announced as this year’s winner!! And it was a very special honor for all of us there to have the award presented by former South Carolina Governor and U.S. Education Secretary Dick Riley. A very big day for Baron DeKalb and for Kershaw County!