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KCSD board determines stance on state education issues

Posted: November 18, 2011 3:43 p.m.
Updated: November 21, 2011 5:00 a.m.

The Kershaw County Board of School Trustees unanimously approved a list of five legislative positions to address with the 2012 general assembly – all of which include the board’s views on public education issues ranging from funding reform for K-12 education to vouchers and tax credits.

During Tuesday’s board meeting, Kershaw County School District (KCSD) Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan told school trustees that by drafting these issues to discuss with the legislation, they also have the opportunity to communicate those issues with Kershaw County residents.

“And there are going to be a slew (of issues),” he said. “You’re already starting to see some real discussion about tax structures and funding structures … so I think your position on funding is pretty critical.”

Funding reform has been discussed during many of the board’s meetings during the past several years as the school district has seen its revenue decrease by millions of dollars.

The board stated it was in support of a “complete overhaul of the funding structure for K-12 education in order to provide a predictable funding stream and equitable funding for the educational needs of all students, regardless of where they live.”

Also addressed in the legislative positions is the board’s opposition of tax credits and vouchers -- legislation it said would “drain $800 million more in funding for K-12 education during the next 13 years, in addition to the $750 million in cuts that have already been absorbed since 2008.”

Regarding its stance on pupil transportation, the board’s legislative position states that it supports “funding for pupil transportation that will increase the number of school buses, provide for expedited replacement of the state’s aging bus fleet, and enable school districts to make appropriate decisions to ensure student safety.”

The legislative positions also include the board’s support of funding flexibility that would allow school districts to receive funding to utilize online learning resources instead of traditional textbooks, as well as increased funding for Career and Technical Education.

“It’s really important as advocates of public education that we make our positions known to the folks who make these decisions,” Board Chairman Joey Dorton said Thursday afternoon.

In other news, KCSD Director of Special Needs Debi Davis and KCSD Coordinator for the Office of Special Services Pam Whitehead gave the board an update on the school district’s special education program.

Whitehead said collaboration with regular education students has given special education students a “sharp academic increase.”

The special education department received a baseline percentage of 40 percent for properly written IEP transition goals, a percentage Whitehead attributed to the fact that the word “will” was the only acceptable word to be used in the transition goals.

For example, she added, they had to write that a student will go to college or will join the military, as opposed to saying that a student “plans to pursue” a military career or “intends” to go to college.

“We are currently in the process of both peer review and department review of each IEP to correct these errors before the next reporting period,” she said.

The state target graduation rate for students with IEPs is 44.67 percent. The school district’s current rate is 34.4 percent.

However, White said the school district’s drop-out rate was 2.6 percent, which was “well within” the state target dropout rate of less than 5.4 percent.

Additionally, Whitehead said 90 percent of students make significant progress in positive social relationships and 72 percent of students make significant progress in early language and literacy development by the age of 6.

Kershaw County had a 98 percent participation rate for special education students in English/Language Arts and math “high stakes testing.”

 Included in the goals for the current year, Whitehead told the board, was the correction of acceptable transition goals to 100 percent, increasing the graduation rate, increasing the rigor in preschool classrooms and looking at overall academic achievement.

“Sometimes the hill our kids climb looks too steep and some question whether they can make it,” she said. “But when we see the things we have seen tonight and when we have tasted of the labors of their learning, we find out that their potential is often far above what they are given credit for.”

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