SC's education dollars (not) at work

Posted in the Columbia Forum

“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#1 Jul 27, 2010
S.C. Superintendent of Education Jim Rex is spending nearly twice as much on non-classroom “consultants” this year as he did in 2009 - the latest example of how the global recession isn’t hurting South Carolina’s massive education bureaucracy.

Through the first five months of 2010, Rex has spent $2.6 million on “non-state education and training services.” That’s a 53 percent increase from last year, according to budget figures published this week by The Voice. On top of that, Rex spent another $1.2 million on consulting expenses during the month of June – bringing his current consultant tab for the year to $3.7 million.

For years, Rex has been complaining about the impact of “budget cuts” on South Carolina classrooms, saying that teachers would have to be fired and class sizes would soar as a result of public schools receiving less money.

The truth? Funding for public education is at its highest level ever – with more than $13,000 being spent per child each year (for a total annual expenditure of $9.5 billion). On top of that, South Carolina’s school districts currently have more than $700 million stashed away in reserve accounts.

No wonder Palmetto state educrats feel comfortable sticking taxpayers with the bill for lavish vacations and new putting greens at their favorite country clubs while they bitch and moan about not having any money.

Despite the huge increases in funding, our students are not making progress.

In fact, South Carolina’s overall graduation rate remains among the worst in the nation – which is consistent with our state’s declining SAT and ACT scores. Also, South Carolina’s rural graduation rate also ranks dead last in the country. Things aren’t getting better, either. South Carolina’s overall graduation rate has improved by a meager 1.5 percent over the last decade – one of the worst percentage improvements in the entire country and a figure that stands in stark contrast to the “perpetual progress” cited by Rex and other educrats.

Also, South Carolina’s black students are falling further behind their white peers, who in turn are falling further behind their peers in other states – a vicious cycle that keeps repeating no matter how much money is dumped into the “one size fits all” machine.

In an effort to hide these miserable outcomes from parents, educrats have been working hard to dumb down the state’s costly and inefficient academic assessments – which constitute the bureaucratic definition of “accountability.” Also, South Carolina remains the only state in America that does not release graduation rates for minority students – yet another effort to conceal the generational failure of our current system.

While we laid out a series of proposed reforms in our recent endorsement of Republican Mick Zais for State Superintendent of Education, at the end of the day it’s up to the S.C. legislature to pass the long-overdue choice, funding and accountability reforms that this state desperately needs if it ever wants to start fulfilling its obligation to future generations of students.

As we’ve said on frankly too many occasions in the past, let’s hope they do so before yet another generation is lost …

“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#2 Jul 27, 2010
SC Education Completely Recession-Proof

Consultants and contractors for the SC Department of Education are certainly feeling the recession.

In June of 2010, Jim Rex’s department spent $1,158,169 on “Non State Education and Training Services.” This is almost triple what was spent last month.

Here is a recap of 2010 Consultant Spending to date:

January:$510,005

February:$295,413

March:$658,631

April:$657,395

May:$463,087

June:$1,158,169

YTD:$3,742,700

Teachers are still losing their jobs. Less and less students are graduating on time. According to “Diplomas Count,” and effort of Education Week, South Carolina has an on-time graduation rate of only 55%, with an ever lower percentage of minority students graduating on time.

This month alone over a million dollars was spent on consulting fees, with no real results to show for it. Obviously some of the expenses are small, and others represent reimbursements and other completely legitimate costs.

With all the spending, all the new schemes, and all the consultants, why has that graduation rate only increased a pitiful 1.5% over the last ten years?

Instead of spending money on failed initiative after failed initiative, lawmakers should follow the example of other states and enact comprehensive school choice legislation.

“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#3 Jul 27, 2010
Here are the Consultant and Contractor Expenses for June 2010:

Payee Amount
SERVE CENTER AT UNCG $136,908.00
SOUTHERN REGIONAL EDUC BOA $87,936.00
THE PAXEN GROUP INC $77,737.50
EDISONLEARNING INC $75,000.00
ATLANTIC RESEARCH PARTNERS $48,177.00
INSITE LLC $46,200.00
SAVE THE CHILDREN FEDERATI $42,000.00
SAVE THE CHILDREN FEDERATI $42,000.00
FAMILY CONNECTION OF SOUTH $30,675.00
ANDERSON RESEARCH GROUP $29,925.00
FOLLETT SOFTWARE COMPANY $28,000.00
THE PAXEN GROUP INC $25,912.50
THE PAXEN GROUP INC $25,912.50
CITY YEAR INC $22,500.00
WYOMING DEPT OF EDUCATION ???$16,172.10
FITZMAURICE INTERPRETING & $15,000.00
INTEGRITY RESEARCH & CONSU $15,000.00
RODNEY DALE KELLY $14,962.50
PARTNERSHIP FOR FAMILY EDU $12,000.00
LINDA ELIZABETH HAINS $10,800.00
FITZMAURICE INTERPRETING & $9,000.00
FITZMAURICE INTERPRETING & $7,500.00
EDUCATION DEVELOPMENT CENT $7,000.00
NANCY E BURCHINS $6,460.00
ROBERT L KIRTON $5,700.00
ALICE P BREWINGTON $5,500.00
LEAP CONSULTING LLC $4,987.50
DEBORAH L GOOCH $4,575.00
NATIONAL EDUCATIONAL RESEA $4,500.00
NATIONAL EDUCATIONAL RESEA $4,500.00
PARENTS AS TEACHERS NATION $4,200.00
MARTHA W WATSON $4,172.08
SYSTEM WIDE SOLUTIONS INC $3,544.20
JAMES E WRIGHT $3,500.00
LINDSAY CONSULTING LLC $3,500.00
SOUTHERN REGIONAL EDUC BOA $3,500.00
SWANSON EDITORIAL INC $3,429.50
RHONDA M CORLEY $3,040.00
LINDA ELIZABETH HAINS $3,000.00
STRATEGIC INNOVATIONS $3,000.00
STRATEGIC INNOVATIONS $3,000.00
SYSTEM WIDE SOLUTIONS INC $2,997.00
SWANSON EDITORIAL INC $2,878.50
JANET R SMALLEY $2,850.00
JUDITH CANOVA CHEATWOOD $2,850.00
JUDITH CANOVA CHEATWOOD $2,850.00
LILLIAN E HERRINGTON $2,850.00
LILLIAN E HERRINGTON $2,850.00
MARTHA CLYATT MESSICK $2,850.00
NEWTON JAMES AND ASSOCIATE $2,850.00
SUSAN GRAMLING VASQUEZ $2,850.00
EDUCATIONAL SERVICES $2,750.00
ELIZABETH G MCKINNEY $2,660.00
JULIE VON FRANK $2,660.00
SUE J HINES $2,612.50
SUE J HINES $2,612.50
NICK MILASNOVICH $2,565.00
JULIA A FISHER $2,550.00
SYSTEM WIDE SOLUTIONS INC $2,542.50
ALICE P BREWINGTON $2,500.00
EDUCATION DEVELOPMENT CENT $2,500.00
SIDNEY HOWARD PARRISH JR $2,500.00
SUMEKA ABNEY $2,500.00
WENDELL KENT PARKER $2,500.00
BUTLER & BUTLER CPAS PA $2,457.00
THE FARRELL GROUP $2,350.00
DENNIS THOMPSON JR $2,280.00
JANE W FARRELL $2,196.87
CLARKSON PROFESSIONAL CONS $2,090.00
BILLY J PENNINGTON JR $2,000.00
COURTNEY CHRISTINE WEST $2,000.00
KERR & COMPANY INC $2,000.00
LEARNING SOLUTIONS LLC $2,000.00
PAMELA KAY BEGGS $2,000.00
ROBERT T LONG $2,000.00
RHODA S BOYD $1,900.00
ROSANNE D MONTJOY $1,855.00
BRENDA L LYLES $1,824.00
ARLENE KAYE BAKUTES $1,750.00
CAROL C SHIELDS $1,750.00
LYNN HARRILL $1,750.00
MILDRED HUEY $1,750.00
ROSE HILLIARD WILDER $1,750.00
TRAUDE MARGUERITE SANDER $1,740.00
STREETMAN RESOURCES INC $1,710.00
MICHELLE LYNN SACKMAN $1,650.00
DENISE N MORGAN $1,600.00
DOROTHY S STRICKLAND $1,600.00
LAURA M JUSTICE $1,600.00
BENNIE M BROWN JR $1,520.00
ANTOINE R JORDAN $1,500.00
EAB CONSULTING CO $1,500.00
EAB CONSULTING CO $1,500.00
EAB CONSULTING CO $1,500.00
EDUCATORS EDGE $1,500.00
ELAINE G BROWN $1,500.00
JAMES E WRIGHT $1,500.00
JAMES E WRIGHT $1,500.00
JAMES H HALL JR $1,500.00
JOANN GRANT $1,500.00
LC STEPHENS INC $1,500.00
NEWTON JAMES AND ASSOCIATE $1,500.00
PAULETTE S HIPPS $1,500.00
REGINALD WICKER $1,500.00
RITA B SMITH $1,500.00
RODERIC F TAYLOR $1,500.00
RYACUS A DEAN $1,500.00
STRATEGIC SOLUTIONS FOR LE $1,500.00
RICHARD S THOMPSON $1,453.50
TRAUDE MARGUERITE SANDER $1,450.00
TRAUDE MARGUERITE SANDER $1,450.00
TRAUDE MARGUERITE SANDER $1,450.00

“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#4 Jul 27, 2010
NICK MILASNOVICH $1,425.00
RICHARD S THOMPSON $1,410.75
KENNETH B PINKNEY $1,400.00
JANE W FARRELL $1,318.12
SUE J HINES $1,306.25
SARAH RANNELLS POWELL $1,250.00
GREGORY S REID $1,200.00
LINDSAY CONSULTING LLC $1,200.00
MARTHA A MENCHINGER $1,200.00
BENNIE M BROWN JR $1,140.00
BPM CONSULTING $1,140.00
JOHN DAVID RAFFAELLE $1,140.00
MARY P SEAMON $1,140.00
PROJECT MANAGEMENT GROUP I $1,140.00
DEBORAH L GOOCH $1,050.00
LEISA H LIPSCOMB $1,011.00
RONALD A MCWHIRT $1,008.00
AMY C WILLIAMS $1,000.00
BARBARA F WESTON $1,000.00
DINAH CELESTE WILLIAMS $1,000.00
GEORGE F STRAWDER $1,000.00
JAMES I MELVIN $1,000.00
JEANNA M RATHEL $1,000.00
KENYA PEREZ $1,000.00
MARTHA B WILLIAMS $1,000.00
MARY F BARRIER $1,000.00
RANDY CHRISTMAS $1,000.00
RUDY MANCKE $1,000.00
SCHRENDRIA F ROBINSON $1,000.00
SOUTHERN REGIONAL EDUC BOA $1,000.00
SOUTHERN REGIONAL EDUC BOA $1,000.00
STANLEY C MUHAMMAD $1,000.00
TONDALEYA GREEN JACKSON $1,000.00
BETH H PHILLIPS $950.00
DEBORAH L GOOCH $950.00
MLS CONSULTING $950.00
JUDITH CANOVA CHEATWOOD $807.50
JEANNIE B MONSON $800.00
KENDALL H MCLEOD $800.00
CHERYL C ALLREAD $760.00
DENNIS THOMPSON JR $760.00
EVELYN S SMITH $760.00
EVELYN S SMITH $760.00
FRANCINE W KNOTTS $760.00
GLORIA JEAN DUDLEY $760.00
ROSEMARY B ENGLISH $760.00
TITUS DUREN $760.00
DOREEN G GREEN $750.00
ELIZABETH H MOORE $750.00
JENNIFER J DAVIS $750.00
LINDA D EGAN $750.00
NANCY ANNE MOORE $750.00
RONA M ELLIS $750.00
SHERRYL M PETERS $750.00
SOUTHERN REGIONAL EDUC BOA $750.00
TERESA C ALEXANDER $750.00
BRENDA L LYLES $720.00
BETH H PHILLIPS $700.00
WYOMING DEPT OF EDUCATION $672.10
SOUTH CAROLINA AUTISM SOCI $650.00
ALICE TEEL SUDLOW $600.00
ALLISON GALASSIE $600.00
ANNA CHRISTINA CAPPS $600.00
CASSIDY CALEB JENKS $600.00
CONNIE BOLEMAN $600.00
DAVID T PLATTS $600.00
HELEN LAURA MCFADDEN $600.00
JAMES FREDERICK MCMANUS JR $600.00
JOHN BENJAMIN BEASLEY $600.00
KATHERINE A CLARK $600.00
KEVIN ARNOLD COLEY JR $600.00
MILLIE HOWARD GRIFFIN $600.00
NICOLE LYNN HENDERSON $600.00
SHANE E FARMER $600.00
SHANNON ROSE MCCARTHA $600.00
SPENCER SHELBY BABB $600.00
LEISA H LIPSCOMB $595.00
LEISA H LIPSCOMB $595.00
BANK OF AMERICA PROCUREMEN $500.36
ABBEY MYERS $500.00
ASHLEY WHITSON $500.00
CAROL S SUNDERMAN $500.00
CHRISTINA P MCCARTHA $500.00
DANA R MILEY $500.00
DAVID L MORGAN $500.00
HAORAN NING $500.00
INSITE LLC $500.00
JESSICA GRABINER THUR $500.00
JORDAN BAILEY $500.00
JULIA ANN ABRAHAM $500.00
JULIA MOSS $500.00
KATHY STUCK LOTT $500.00
KAYLA ASHLYN LEWIS $500.00
KEELY HITCHINGS $500.00
KELLY NGUYEN $500.00
LISA R CUTHBERT $500.00
MARIA C SMITH $500.00
NICOLE LEE WALKER $500.00
PALOMA SANTANA $500.00
PAMILLA ANN JAMES $500.00
PHYLL ALEXANDRA EIER $500.00
RICHARD G ZINGMARK $500.00
RYAN GONZALEZ $500.00
PEE DEE REGIONAL COMMUNITY $495.00
LEISA H LIPSCOMB $476.00
RONALD G LOPES II $400.00
ANDERSON CONSULTANTS $380.00
JENNY HONEA ELLIOTT $380.00
ROBIN ELIZABETH GRUBB $380.00
ROSEMARY B ENGLISH $380.00
STREETMAN RESOURCES INC $380.00
TITUS DUREN $380.00
LUALICE RILEY COATES $357.00
LUALICE RILEY COATES $357.00
INSITE LLC $350.00

“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#5 Jul 27, 2010
ALEXANDER JOHN KERR $300.00
DENISE LEWIS $300.00
MARY ELEANOR DALY $300.00
NICHOLAS RYAN BISHOP $300.00
STEPHANIE CHOE $300.00
ROSANNE D MONTJOY $265.00
ANGELA L HINTON $250.00
ANNA SLOAN $250.00
CALVIN J HU $250.00
CAROLINE ROSS MUMMA $250.00
CASSANDRA G BRAILSFORD $250.00
CHRISTINE JIANG $250.00
DONALD J PARADISE $250.00
DONNA ELIZABETH BOWMAN $250.00
GWENDOLYN C FLOYD $250.00
KATHERINE BRADLEY $250.00
KAYLA BRENNAN $250.00
MELINDA DEYASI $250.00
PAULA DEY $250.00
SC DEPT OF REVENUE FOR $250.00
STEWART BRYANT $250.00
YUWEI WEI $250.00
LUALICE RILEY COATES $238.00
LUALICE RILEY COATES $238.00
LUALICE RILEY COATES $238.00
LUALICE RILEY COATES $238.00
SC DEPT OF REVENUE FOR $238.00
SC DEPT OF REVENUE FOR $220.92
SC DEPT OF REVENUE FOR $213.00
AMERICAN RED CROSS CENTRAL $210.00
SC DEPT OF REVENUE FOR $206.31
DAWN SARGENT $200.00
DONNA G TEUBER $200.00
GORDON MAYNER $200.00
JENNY J AYCOCK $200.00
KAY H MEADOWS $200.00
MICHELE CLEMBURY $200.00
SHARON KING-HANLEY $200.00
ELAINE P VASTINE $190.44
AGNES THOMPSON $190.00
CARMEN E BROWN $190.00
CAROL ALFORD $190.00
CYNTHIA R PARKER $190.00
DAISY WILSON $190.00
GWENDOLYN MCFADDEN $190.00
ROMONA D FREEMAN $190.00
SUSAN H ELMORE $190.00
TAMERA BROWN $190.00
TRESE WHETSTONE REED $190.00
VERA D CRIBB $190.00
VIRGINIA M GRAHAM PEELE $190.00
CAROLYN F CAREY $180.00
LAVONNE TATE ANDERSON $180.00
LILLIAN P WHALEY $180.00
PATRICIA H WILLIAMS-YOUNG $180.00
SARA ROGERS $180.00
WILLIE GALE WILLIAMS $180.00
ROBERTA THOMPSON $170.00
THOMASENA M DAVIS $170.00
SC DEPT OF REVENUE FOR $166.64
CONNIE WILLIAMS RODGERS $160.00
SANDRA ALSTON $160.00
SUSANNE GRANT $160.00
AMY NICOLE DAVIS $150.00
BRENDA ADAM COLLINS $150.00
CAROLYN MIE BROWN $150.00
CHARLOTTE P GAMBLE $150.00
CONNIE J CHINA $150.00
CYNTHIA F EDGE $150.00
DEBRA W ROBINSON $150.00
DEVINS NICKELSON $150.00
DIANE BURGESS $150.00
DIANNE RAEFORD $150.00
ELLA M FULTON $150.00
FAYE P COLLINS $150.00
FELICIA M BROWN $150.00
GAIL W YON $150.00
GEORGETTE J BRITT $150.00
INABINETTE RICHARDSON $150.00
INSITE LLC $150.00
JANICE S LEE $150.00
JEAN BANE POSTON $150.00
KAREN H RICHARDSON $150.00
KEVIN V BROWN $150.00
KIMBERLY BEHLING $150.00
LINDSAY BEESON STRICKLAND $150.00
LORI AKERS $150.00
LORRAINE Y FORD LOCKWOOD $150.00
LYNN KRANTZ HELMS $150.00
MARGARET THOMPSON $150.00
MARILYN J GARDNER $150.00
MARKEDA S PETERSON $150.00
MARY ELIZABETH JONES $150.00
PAULA H WATSON $150.00
ROSALIND WASHINGTON $150.00
SHARYN BOYD $150.00
SHEILA B ONEAL $150.00
SHELIA ROUSE $150.00

“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#6 Jul 27, 2010
SHIRLEY ALLISON $150.00
SHIRLEY T BALLARD $150.00
STEPHANY FLEMING $150.00
TAMARA HENNGHAN $150.00
THOMASENA WILLIAMS $150.00
TRACEY S SMITH $150.00
ANTOINETTE DEVORI DAVIS $140.00
ARTHUR F SWAGART $140.00
BETTY BROWN $140.00
JESSICA FAULK $140.00
ALBERTHA B JARVIS $130.00
EAB CONSULTING CO $125.00
LAURA V MARSHALL $125.00
LYDIA WINN $120.00
SHAYLA PETTIGREW $120.00
SC DEPT OF REVENUE FOR $119.44
LUALICE RILEY COATES $119.00
ALICIA COHEN $100.00
AMIE CRIBB $100.00
CAROL C GEIGER $100.00
CAROLANN GROSHANS $100.00
CAROLYN VENNER $100.00
CATHERINE G SHILEN $100.00
CHARMANE FREEMAN-GREENE $100.00
CHRISHONDA M KENNEDY $100.00
CLORETTA F PRESSLEY $100.00
CONNIE DICKEY $100.00
DORETHIA L PAGE $100.00
DORIS STALNAKER $100.00
EBONY FELTON $100.00
ETHEL PRICE $100.00
EVELYN S COLEMAN $100.00
FRANCES M MURRAY $100.00
GLENDALE TIMMONS $100.00
GROVER LENA WHITE $100.00
JACQUELINE G MCGILL $100.00
JANICE JOLLY $100.00
KATHY JO BRATTON $100.00
KELLY K KEMMERLIN $100.00
KIYA BENJAMIN $100.00
LAURA F BENTLEY $100.00
LAUREL GEORGE $100.00
LOU ANGLIA PRESSLEY $100.00
MARGARET E MOORER $100.00
MARISA LEWIS $100.00
MARTHA B BRINKLEY $100.00
MATTHEW A SAWICZ $100.00
MEREDITH KIRKLAND $100.00
MILLANESE MITCHELL $100.00
MONICA G KELLY $100.00
NANCY MOORE $100.00
NYKIA SIERRA RIVERS $100.00
PAMELA C WILHELM $100.00
PATRICIA W SMITH $100.00
PRISCILLA ANN SHIRER $100.00
PRISCILLA JOYCE GARVAIN $100.00
SHANNA FLEGLER $100.00
SHANYA DENISE MYERS $100.00
SHEILA CAROL GORDON $100.00
SHELLEY S HOOD $100.00
STACEY S BAKER $100.00
STACIE DELYNN PHILLIPS $100.00
STEPHANIE FELDER-HILLIARD $100.00
TAMMY C ACHZIGER $100.00
TWANDA ADDISON $100.00
VELINA M JONES $100.00
VIRGINIA S BISHOP $100.00
VIRNESE SEWARD $100.00
PHYLISS THORNTHWAITE $92.00
ALECHIA R DOTTS $50.00
ANGIE L DANIELS $50.00
APRIL TAYLOR $50.00
AUDREY SHENEE SIMPKINS $50.00
BRENDA GADSON $50.00
CAROLYN TOOMER $50.00
CLAUDIUS RAY BOLAND $50.00
DENISE SHEENA DAVIS $50.00
DIANNA F OWENS $50.00
DOMINIQUE L HEYWARD $50.00
DYNETTA H ADDISON $50.00
JESSICA MITCHELL $50.00
JOHNNIE MAE SIMKINS $50.00
KIMBERLY JORDAN $50.00
LAURA A MCPHAIL $50.00
LINDA ARNAE RANDOLPH $50.00
MAE NOTOMA $50.00
MELANIE T MCMILLAN $50.00
MELINDA D RICKS $50.00
MEZETTA L HUGGINS $50.00
MICHAEL JEROME RYANT $50.00
MICHAEL JOHN GAMBRELL $50.00
MIKE PEARSON $50.00
MONICA D DAVIS $50.00
MONICA MCFARLAND $50.00
NANCY WILSON $50.00
RON P ROVERI $50.00
SARAH J WILSON $50.00
SHELLEY COLEMAN $50.00
SHERONDA EVANS $50.00
TEKORA LASHEKA BURNS $50.00
TOPRILENA JAMES $50.00
VERNIE SMITH $50.00
VERONICA FOXE TOWNSEND $50.00
VIRGINA P CAPPS $50.00
WANDA J ROBINSON $50.00
WENDY RENEE AUTHER $50.00
JENNELL Y GILLIS $21.00

“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#7 Aug 25, 2010
SC Education: Misplaced Priorities
By Will Folks • on August 24, 2010

Most of the stuff you read on this website is me and my editorial staff ranting on behalf of taxpayers (as taxpayers). This time it’s just me ranting as a parent … well, not ranting so much as just raising a point of personal privilege that deals with an issue we cover extensively around here: Education funding.

In case you haven’t noticed, FITS rails almost daily against all facets of the current education status quo in South Carolina – and with good reason. Despite record funding increases (during the greatest recession in eight decades), students of all races, ages and income levels are falling further behind the rest of the nation. Yet unlike many other government critics, this website doesn’t just bitch and moan about the problem(s)– we also advocates for specific reforms that would fix them. For example, in unveiling our big reform blueprint two years ago, FITS proposed over a dozen education reforms – including universal parental choice and comprehensive education funding reform. We also recommended eliminating a slew of administrative positions and unnecessary programs so that more money could make its way into the classroom.

Which brings me to my point …

As much as my website likes to criticize the public education system, on a personal level I happen to be a proud public school parent. Yeah … you read that right. In fact, I’ll put my child’s public school Kindergarten teacher from last year up against any private school kindergarten teacher in the country – and so far this year his first grade teacher seems every bit as good.

In other words, I don’t feel compelled to shell out money to an overrated private school like Hammond or Heathwood when my kid’s academic needs are being met. Of course I know that my situation is an exception to the rule in South Carolina – where nearly 75,000 children are currently trapped in failing schools (which the State Department of Education now refers to as “schools of academic priority” or something ridiculous like that).

I also know that nothing substitutes for his mom and I getting involved and staying involved in his education.

Anyway, while I’m pleased with the public school “product” in my particular education marketplace, that doesn’t mean that it’s exempt from symptoms of larger problems that plague nearly all public schools in South Carolina. Real root issues that keep our state’s kids from reaching their full academic potential.

“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#8 Aug 25, 2010
For example, a pair of taxpayer-funded mailings that my wife showed me just prior to beginning of the school year illustrate one of these root problems – poor resource allocation.

The first mailing – sent from our public school district – was a glossy, calendar-size brochure. Professionally-designed, it was printed on heavy card stock in full color and included a schedule for the upcoming school year as well as a bunch of other information about the district. Basically, it’s the sort of thing that could have easily been sent to parents via email or printed up on cheap copy paper at a dramatically reduced cost.

Speaking of, a few days later my wife handed me another mailing, this one printed on … you guessed it … cheap copy paper. This mailing wasn’t from the district, however, it was from the school, and it was asking us to send a bunch of classroom supplies with our kid on the first day of class – things like hand sanitizer, dry erase board wipes and other stuff for the teacher to use.

Needless to say, I was pissed off. Why was the district sending out slick mail pieces while forcing me (and hundreds of other parents) to buy teachers’ supplies?

That’s totally irresponsible … although it happens every day (in much greater denominations) all across our worst-in-the-nation public education system.

South Carolina spent $9.5 billion on public schools last year – or more than $13,000 per child. You would think that with such a massive investment there would be more than enough money to buy teacher supplies, but no – that money is being spent on consultants and specialists and shiny new administration buildings and PR people like whoever it was that designed and printed the ridiculously expensive mailing I received just days before I was told I had to shell out $60 for my kid’s teacher’s school supplies.

Look … until our state sorts out its academic funding priorities, we’re never going to get dollars where they’re needed most … which means our students are going to continue to lag behind the rest of the country in academic achievement.

It’s that simple.

And we’ll never get our funding priorities together until we have an online checkbook that records, categorizes and publishes (in searchable form) each and every taxpayer expense so that we can follow the money and root out unnecessary spending like glossy brochures.

Obviously, I’ve known for a long time that less than half of each dollar spent on education in this state makes it to the classroom. Numerous studies confirm that, and I’ve written about that on this website dozens – if not hundreds of times.

Now, on a very personal level, I know one reason why.

“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#10 Aug 26, 2010
We opposed the appointment of Arne Duncan as U.S. Secretary of Education … although he’s occasionally been useful to us in making our points about South Carolina’s worst-in-the-nation education system.

Like last spring, for example, when Duncan said that South Carolina’s public school system was producing “heartbreaking results.”

No argument here …

One area where we have been pleasantly surprised by Duncan, however, is in his support of merit pay for teachers. While this is obviously not a substitute for bigger reforms like universal parental choice and across-the-board funding reform, doing whatever we can do to incentivize results (not more failure) should be a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, here in South Carolina teachers get paid extra for obtaining national certification, not for the results they produce in the classroom … which is one of many reasons why our classroom results are so painfully lacking.

Another area where we’ve been pleasantly surprised by Duncan is his support for greater transparency with respect to the information that government schools give parents – which is also a major problem here in South Carolina.

“The truth is always hard to swallow, but it can only make us better, stronger and smarter,” Duncan said in Little Rock, Arkansas on Wednesday.“That’s what accountability is all about — facing the truth and taking responsibility.”

Indeed it is.

Unfortunately in South Carolina it’s all about moving the goalposts – not moving the numbers.

And far from facing the truth, our state is doing its best to keep it buried. For example, while data is published from outside sources about the state’s achievement gap (which grows larger each year even as white students are falling further behind their peers), South Carolina remains the only state in the nation that refuses to publish its African-American graduation rate.

Amazing, isn’t it?

Taxpayers pay to collect this information, but State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex refuses to release it because he knows it would conclusively prove what everybody in this state already knows – that generations of black students are being relegated to second-class status by a failed system that does nothing but suck up record amounts of funding each year.

It’s past time that this “veil of failure” be lifted.

As Duncan says, the truth will “only make us better, stronger and smarter.”

“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#11 Sep 7, 2010
Gaffney High School in Cherokee County, S.C. recently spent nearly $12 million on a new 8,500-seat football stadium – the latest evidence that public schools in South Carolina aren’t hurting for cash.

Originally, the new Gaffney High stadium (dubbed “The Reservation”) was supposed to cost $5.5 million and seat approximately 10,000 fans – but the cost of the project quickly mushroomed to $8.5 million.

According to its public website, the stadium includes “amenities such as press boxes, outdoor patio areas, booster boxes, on field band seating, and a team meeting room that overlooks the playing field from the north endzone.”

Sadly, such excess is nothing new in Cherokee County – where the district’s interim superintendent recently received a $30,000 raise and its personnel director recently received a $23,000 raise.

Cherokee County spends approximately $11,300 per child each year, not counting bond revenue for capital projects like its new stadium. The district is rated “below average” according to South Carolina’s already low standards.

“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#12 Sep 11, 2010
One of America’s most prominent fiscal conservative policy organizations is taking SCGOP gubernatorial nominee Nikki Haley to task for abandoning her support of expanded parental choice in South Carolina.

The Cato Institute – which a University of Pennsylvania Study recently ranked as the world’s “top think tank for innovative ideas”– criticized Haley in a recent article for her “concerning and confusing statements on school choice.”

“Haley has a long, solid record of supporting school choice through education tax credits in South Carolina,” the Cato article notes, adding that “as recently as August 19th, Haley was reported as saying,‘like Sanford, she would veto a bill to expand public education options unless it included help with private tuition.’”

Of course that was also the day that Haley said that expanding choice for South Carolina students – including the 75,000 children who are trapped in nearly 200 failing schools across the Palmetto state – was no longer “a priority” and would not be her “focus” as governor.

Instead, Haley is focusing on changing South Carolina’s education funding formula.

“Changing the funding formula is all well and good,” the Cato article notes.“It might save some money. But it will NOT improve education in South Carolina. Education tax credits will improve performance and save much more than any public school reform.”

That’s true. We support fixing the funding formula – and a host of other education reforms – but none of these would come even remotely close to having the same impact on our state’s worst-in-the-nation education system as passage of a universal parental choice bill.

Not surprisingly, Haley has been roundly criticized by fiscal conservatives and Tea Party activists for her retreat on this issue.

State Sen. Larry Grooms has publicly blasted her proposals, saying they are “simply not acceptable” and calling them “a dressed up version of the Status Quo,” and “not the true reforms that are needed.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint recently challenged Haley on the issue, saying that governors must be actively engaged in order for choice to succeed.

“I don’t expect the governor to do this alone – I would like to see the governor be a strong advocate for expanding choices,” DeMint said.

Supporters of Haley have reminded FITS that she has not “changed her position, just her emphasis,” pointing to her pledge to sign universal parental choice legislation if it reaches her desk.

Of course that position falls well short of the “strong advocacy” that DeMint, Grooms – and now the Cato Institute – want to see from Haley.

And reformers have every right to expect more from her … because let’s face it, we’re dealing with an education crisis in South Carolina that will never be solved by half-measures (somethinge we thought Haley understood).

South Carolina has dumped record amounts of funding into its public school system over the last decade – with nothing to show for it but incremental gains among white students and the relegation of another generation of black students to second-class status. Examples of this disturbing trend can be seen in our state’s declining SAT scores, stagnant ACT scores and cellar-dwelling graduation rates.

In addition to backtracking on choice, Haley has also sprinted to the ideological “center” on bread and butter issues like taxes and spending – drawing criticism from S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford for her refusal to submit executive budgets.

She’s also exposed herself to charges of hypocrisy as it relates to her signature issue of government transparency – and charges of incompetence as it relates to her career as an “accountant,” something Haley has repeatedly touted as a reason she should be elected.

In spite of all that, Haley is currently leading Democratic nominee Vincent Sheheen by sixteen … count ‘em … sixteen points in the latest Rasmussen Reports poll.

“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#13 Sep 13, 2010
Despite receiving record amounts of taxpayer funding last year, South Carolina’s public schools saw their student’s scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) fall for the fourth consecutive year in 2010.

According to the College Board, which administers the SAT, public school students in the Palmetto state scored a composite 1,443 (out of 2,400) on this year’s exam – 482 on the critical reading section, 496 on mathematics and 465 on writing. That’s a two-point drop from last year – and the latest evidence that so-called “gains” being touted by our state’s costly academic assessment program are illusory.

The national SAT average for public school students increased by three points this year to 1,497. That puts South Carolina’s public school students 54 points behind their national peers … with the gap growing wider each year.

Also, South Carolina’s top-performing public school districts are still trailing their counterparts in North Carolina by nearly 200 points.

Additionally, it’s important to note that these figures do not include the thousands of children who drop out of school each year in the Palmetto state, which has one of the highest dropout rates in America.

Despite receiving a whopping $13,000-plus per child (each year), South Carolina’s public system continues to produce inferior results no matter how you try to slice it.

In 2009, SAT scores at S.C. public schools declined by six points.

In 2008, they dropped by five points, even as S.C. Superintendent of Education Jim Rex put out a press release praising “gains” that were provided exclusively by religious and independent schools (i.e. the very schools his department is working to shut down).

Speaking of … students at religious schools in South Carolina scored a composite 1,563 on this year’s SAT (120 points higher than their public school peers), while students at independent schools scored a composite 1,528 (85 points higher than their public school peers).

Just over 25,000 students in South Carolina took the SAT this year – 89 percent of them being public school students. More public school students have been taking the ACT exam in recent years, although South Carolina’s scores on that exam have stagnated.

Roughly 1.6 million students nationwide took the SAT, roughly the same number that took the ACT.

In addition to its declining test scores, South Carolina’s overall graduation rate has improved by a meager 1.5 percent over the last decade – one of the worst percentage improvements in the entire country and a figure that stands in stark contrast to the “perpetual progress” cited by Rex and other educrats.

What can be done to turn things around?

For starters, it is clearly time for state lawmakers to provide parents of all children – including parents of the 75,000 children trapped in failing or below average schools in South Carolina – meaningful choices.

That means passing universal choice legislation – which includes tax credits for all parents and scholarships for parents who cannot afford them.

Breaking the public school system’s monopolistic stranglehold would save tax dollars, free thousands of children from failing schools and create real, market-based accountability for our state’s annual $9.5 billion investment.

“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#14 Sep 14, 2010
Talk about bad timing …

On the same day the College Board announced that SAT scores in South Carolina had dropped for the fourth consecutive year, the architect of that epic failure endorsed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Vincent Sheheen.

“I am pleased to give my full and unqualified support to South Carolina’s next governor–Vincent Sheheen,” State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex said Monday.

Yeah … Sheheen probably would have been better off if Rex’s support was “qualified …” or for that matter “invisible.”

Earlier this year, Rex challenged Sheheen for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination – but drew just 23 percent of the vote in the June primary. Of course in fairness to Rex, sixty percent of Democratic voters chose this guy as their U.S. Senate nominee … so we’ll resist trying to read too much into those results.

Besides, South Carolina’s academic results speak volumes as to the value of Rex’s endorsement … or rather the lack thereof.

Despite receiving record amounts of funding over the last four years, South Carolina’s public education system has produced nothing but incremental gains among white students. Meanwhile, entire generations of African-American students are being relegated to second-class status – although black leaders continue to embrace the failed status quo.

South Carolina’s overall graduation rate remains among the worst in the nation – which is consistent with our state’s declining SAT and stagnating ACT scores. Also, South Carolina’s rural graduation rate ranks dead last in the country. Meanwhile, our overall graduation rate has improved by a meager 1.5 percent over the last decade – one of the worst percentage improvements in the entire country.

In an effort to hide these miserable outcomes from parents, Rex and his fellow educrats (along with House Speaker Bobby Harrell and “Republican” lobbyist J. Warren Tompkins) have been working hard to dumb down the state’s costly and inefficient academic assessments. Also, South Carolina remains the only state in America that does not release graduation rates for minority students – yet another effort to conceal the generational failure of our current system.

What can be done to fix this?

Well, we laid out a series of proposed reforms in our “95 theses” treatise (as well as in our recent endorsement of Republican Mick Zais for State Superintendent of Education), but at the end of the day it’s up to the S.C. legislature to pass the long-overdue choice, funding and accountability reforms that this state desperately needs if it ever wants to start fulfilling its obligation to future generations of students.

“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#15 Sep 27, 2010
In a state already defined by epic failure, S.C. Superintendent of Education Jim Rex has spent the last four years lowering the bar even further – something we weren’t even sure was possible.

Elected as a “reformer” four years ago, Rex has instead further “deformed” public education in South Carolina – presiding over an ongoing erosion of academic achievement while fighting tooth-and-nail against real reforms like universal parental choice, streamlined funding and an overhaul of our state’s failed “accountability” efforts.

Obviously Rex (who was soundly thrashed in his bid to become the Democratic gubernatorial nominee earlier this year) knows what he’s against … but after four years in office does he have any clue what he supports?

From The (Columbia, S.C.) Free Times:

With barely three months left on the job, now might be the time for S.C. Superintendent of Education Jim Rex to step forward, name names, identify failed programs and cut a path toward better public schools.

So what should South Carolina do, Dr. Rex? Who exactly needs to be called out? What exactly needs to be changed?

“We don’t know yet,” Rex said last week, adding that education experts and professors and researchers are learning more every day. An idea that has caught his eye recently is research pointing to a dearth of physical education in schools because man’s brain evolved, as he put it,“on the move, running across the plains.”

Good God.

Is this guy for real? Is he seriously saying that the reason our kids are dumber than kids in every other state in America is because they’re not getting enough exercise?

Sheesh … this reminds us of the lame excuse offered last year by S.C. Senator Ray “Dentist Fairy” Cleary (RINO-La La Land), who thinks that our students are falling further behind children in the rest of the country because they’re distracted by toothaches.

Here’s a news flash for these morons: Our students are failing because they’re imprisoned by an ineffective, inefficient and totally unaccountable taxpayer-funded monopoly that absolutely nobody seems to have the courage to break up.

Despite receiving record funding increases over the last four years, South Carolina’s public education system has produced nothing but incremental gains among white students while relegating another generation of black students to second-class status – even as black “leaders” continue embracing the failed status quo.

South Carolina’s overall graduation rate remains among the worst in the nation – which is consistent with our state’s declining SAT and stagnating ACT scores. Also, South Carolina’s rural graduation rate ranks dead last in the country. Meanwhile, our overall graduation rate has improved by a meager 1.5 percent over the last decade – one of the worst percentage improvements in the entire country.

In an effort to hide these miserable outcomes from parents, Rex and his fellow educrats (along with House Speaker Bobby Harrell and “Republican” lobbyist J. Warren Tompkins) have been working hard to dumb down the state’s costly and inefficient academic assessments. Also, South Carolina remains the only state in America that does not release graduation rates for minority students – yet another effort to conceal the generational failure of our current system.

Incidentally, Rex has endorsed S.C. Senator Vincent Sheheen for governor …

“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#16 Sep 27, 2010
A group of South Carolina public officials – including soon-to-be former State Treasurer Converse Chellis – are plotting to transfer billions of dollars worth of state retirement investments to a government-run corporation with little to no transparency or accountability.

In fact, within the next three months as much as $6 billion in retirement assets could be transferred from the state pension fund to a government-run company called “NewCo”– which would instantaneously become South Carolina’s largest corporation.

All of this would take place without a vote of the S.C. General Assembly – or any executive branch oversight.

In fact, the six commissioners of the S.C. Retirement System Investment Commission (RSIC) seem to think they have the authority to create this company without the approval of either the General Assembly or the S.C. Budget and Control Board, whose five members serve as “trustees” of the retirement system.

Once again … South Carolina’s dysfunctional government rears its ugly head, right?

No other state in America uses a government-run corporation to make equity investments. However, proponents of the plan say that moving to this model will increase the state’s rate of return on those investments – saving retirees as much as $50 million a year in fees.

“We are going to make better investments,” a source who supports the plan told FITS.“And we are going to make them cheaper.”

Of course the “firm” would operate with a $30 million annual budget – paid for out of “savings” to the pension fund. In fact, as of last Thursday “NewCo” is already in receipt of $15 million in “start-up funding” from the pension fund, money that is reportedly going to create the legal and accounting foundations for the company.

Not a dime of that money was approved by lawmakers, Budget and Control Board members or South Carolina’s retirees – prompting fears that future (much larger) investments would be made with a similar lack of public oversight.

Look … we’re open to exploring alternative investment models for South Carolina’s retirement fund. However, this arrangement clearly needs to be studied at length and either approved (or rejected) by the state’s leaders.

It should not be rammed through by an unelected commission that may or may not be planning on profiting handsomely from its passage.
Skippity Dog

Irmo, SC

#17 Mar 23, 2011
One of those 1500.00 names is a D5 middle school principal who makes 98,000 a year. What could he be consulting on? His school is terrible with numbers of achievement and punishment. Sycophant.

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