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'Get government out of the way and let teachers teach'

Posted: November 24, 2010 12:42 p.m.
Updated: November 26, 2010 5:00 a.m.

I am very sorry that Kristie Alvey was “terribly upset” by my letter contrasting Richland School District Two’s recent decision to lower taxes to Kershaw County School District’s continued attempts to raise taxes.

Unfortunately, Ms. Alvey jumped to an inaccurate conclusion about me based my education funding opinion. She shouldn’t feel alone. This is a common mistake. For some reason, if a person does not support raising taxes for education funding, they are said to be against teachers or public education in general. This false conclusion, which expresses a lack of appreciation on my part for teachers and their hard work, could not be farther from the truth. The truth is: my kids have attended Kershaw County schools for the last 17 years and I have been actively involved in supporting their teachers and schools during this time. I not only respect and appreciate Kershaw County teachers and their challenges, I have repeatedly gone to bat for them against a School District that continues to cut their salaries and threaten their jobs. Teachers in this county are very unhappy and are afraid to speak out for fear of retribution. They talk to me in confidence and I attempt to defend their positions in public.

I want to thank Ms. Alvey for defending teachers and the difficult struggles they face in these economics times. While I also appreciate her willingness to do research and present facts to support her position, I am compelled to address a few problems with her statements.

Ms. Alvey states that “State and local funding for education has dropped $12 million in the last two years”.  To the contrary, a report recently released by the State Budget and Control Board (available on their website) documents the state’s 85 public school districts actually increased their spending last year by $400 million and less than half was spent on instruction. Ms. Alvey also states that teachers are being laid off. While I have heard teachers’ jobs threatened continually for the last two years, and especially when local and state bureaucrats are attempting to increase taxes, my understanding is that no South Carolina teachers have been laid off.

Ms. Alvey also says that the School District’s external auditing firm “has found year after year that the Kershaw County School District is a good steward of public funds”.  In a recent School Board Finance Meeting, the “external auditor” for the District said that they do not check for fraud. That their process does not include a line-by-line review and that it was up to the School Board, parents and private citizens to investigate for financial irregularities. I feel certain an auditor’s professional review never cites an entity as being “a good steward of public funds.” This is a subjective opinion and not one that could be determined by the limited, random process used to conduct this size audit.

Finally, Ms. Alvey says, “money is never wasted on education.” I believe the very reason teachers are stuck with buying their own supplies is because money is wasted. It is wasted on unnecessary bureaucracy. Teachers and classrooms get the crumbs -- not to mention all the pressure for accountability on a shoestring budget and a shoestring salary.

I suggest we get government out of the way and let teachers teach. Teachers and parents should advocate for education funding to go directly to schools instead of allowing half of it to be siphoned off at the State Department of Education and then through the state’s 85 School Districts. This will free up the money needed to secure competitive salaries for teachers.

 

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