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More cuts aimed at education

Posted: February 3, 2011 5:00 p.m.
Updated: February 4, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Kershaw County School District Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan gave school trustees a crash course Tuesday night in pending state legislation that could affect the district.

Morgan told the board he was troubled that a lot of the language in the General Assembly legislation is difficult to understand. He said he would try to break down the complexity and describe the recommendations of state Superintendent of Education Mick Zais in a way that “moms, dads and teachers” could more readily understand.

“Folks don’t understand it, and then it gets passed and then all of a sudden they understand the consequences,” he said. “But by that point, it’s too late to do anything about it.”

Among the proposed cuts Zais has proposed, Morgan said, are the elimination of the teacher evaluation program ADEPT, “High Schools that Work” and Barnwell facilities funding, as well as a reduction of technical assistance funds for lower performing schools.

“Technical assistance funds are monies that are going to schools to help kids that are struggling in reading and math to get extra help. Here at Baron DeKalb, I know that there are two teachers that are using technical assistance funds to provide extra help, especially in reading. So kids get a double dose,” he said. “You don’t get kids to move forward by giving them the same amount of instruction.”

Other cuts on the chopping block, Morgan said, are reduction in funding for school nurses, suspension of textbook funding and elimination of funding for principal training and technology funding for connectivity.

Major increases that have been recommended by the state superintendent include an additional $10.1 million for National Board Certification stipends, $25 million for student transportation and 10 teachers for the state virtual education program.

Morgan said that additional “legislation of note” includes establishing a merit pay plan for teachers; providing tax credits for private schools; requiring 100 percent of local per-pupil expenditures to go to “brick and mortar” charter schools and 75 percent to virtual charter schools; requiring a charter school student to be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities in their home public schools; and changing graduation requirements to reflect a two-tier diploma structure.

Regarding discussion of eliminating funding ETV, Morgan said ETV does a “lot of other things than ‘Masterpiece Theater’ and ‘Antiques Road Show.’”

“They provide a number of video resources for schools … Since August, Kershaw County alone has used this service 25,000 times,” Morgan said. “You’ll hear that ETV doesn’t impact schools -- well, it does.”

KCSD Chief Financial Officer Donnie Wilson, who attended the House Ways and Means hearing earlier Tuesday, also addressed the board, detailing what is proposed in the Education Finance Act of 2011.

And while Wilson acknowledged that House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Cooper is proposing to revamp the Education Finance Act so much that “you won’t recognize it,” he still feels they are trying to make it right and better.

But there’s one underlying issue that’s not going to change, he said: there is no more money.

“Bottom line is, this is going to be an interesting session, and not interesting in a good way,” Wilson said. “One refrain that I heard over and over today as people came up to testify and defend their program: ‘We understand. We know it’s important. There’s going to be tremendous cuts in education in the state of South Carolina this year. Not only are you not going to be able to keep what you’ve got, but you’re going to lose a lot of what you’ve got.”’

“All I can just say is to hang on, this is going to be an unbelievable session,” he added. “And I see almost nothing that looks good.”

In other news, the board unanimously declared Feb. 21 – Presidents Day -- to a school day, and designated June 1 as a furlough day after KCSD students missed three school days in early January because of inclement weather.

There is legislation pending that would “forgive” the three student days missed on Jan. 12-14.

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