By Joseph K. Bowers III
For once Mississippians are now saying, “Thank God for South Carolina!”
This is because South Carolina was recently ranked at the fiftieth in public education among the states, a spot previously held by the Magnolia State.
Many cite the lack of funding or quality of teachers as the source of this not so coveted distinction. These may be factors to our problems but they are not the source of our extremely dysfunctional system.
The source of our state’s education problems stem back to the early to mid-1900’s when the South Carolina General Assembly decided it was a good idea to override the general educational laws with local legislation to create special ways to govern public schools within localities.
Since that time the General Assembly regularly asserts its power to tinker with the governance and administration of the individual local public school districts through local legislation on a frequent basis. These bills have created to date the over eighty school districts, none of which are anywhere similar in size or governance structure.
Any astute politico will tell you that centralizing both government and administration is a recipe for disaster, and is purely bad governance.
The General Assembly needs to govern our education system in a centralized manner by defining what the qualifications are for having a school district, establish consistent forms of governance for those districts, and let them run with it without any more tinkering local legislation, much like how the Home Rule Act of 1975 works for municipalities and counties.
Doing this would level the playing field and equalize funding across the state. It would allow the localities to focus on their issues which are what they are supposed to do, being administrative divisions of the state government.
There are too many cooks running wild in this kitchen we know as the South Carolina public education system and it is time they know their place so the customers can be served in an effective and efficient manner.
It is time for the General Assembly stop administering from Columbia and establish a firm system to do that in a decentralized manner.