Greenville County legislators push for ‘bold’ education reform

December 19, 2018

Greenville County legislators vowing to make education reform a top priority on Tuesday publicized an education agenda from the conservative Palmetto Promise Institute.

The Help Our Pupils Excel plan would reformat the state’s education system by addressing “root problems in finance structure, accountability and equity of opportunity for our rural schools,” members of the Greenville County House Delegation said in a letter to House Speaker Jay Lucas.

“We cannot simply layer more money and well-meaning programs on top of an organization that is literally collapsing under its own weight,” the letter read.

The letter also called on Lucas to implement “bold reforms,” presenting the HOPE plan as strategic road map for the structural reforms listed below.

  • Streamline and fix South Carolina’s education funding formula. The current formula is overly complex, according to the Palmetto Promise Institute, and “research shows that there is zero connection between how money is spent and actual student costs.”
  • Cut bureaucracy and consolidate small and shrinking school districts with less than 2,500 students. These districts “simply must be incentivized or compelled to consolidate,” the institute said.
  • Provide more education options for parents and students. The plan calls for expanding VirtualSC, the state’s online public learning program, and to create education scholarship accounts, which would give parents direct access to their child’s state student funding formula. Parents could spend the money on approved services their child needs, such as therapy or tutoring, according to the institute.
  • Support teachers. The H.O.P.E. plan calls for more pay flexibility for districts to reward and retain teachers “based on talent and effectiveness, rather than only years-in-service or degrees.”

“We can think of no better focus for reform efforts,” the letter concluded. “Students — not programs, systems or special interests — must be at the center of every decision.”

The letter in part referenced comments made by House Speaker Jay Lucas calling for education reform.

“It’s time to face reality in education,” Lucas said, as reported by the Post and Courier. “Without significant reforms, our students won’t have a future.”

The comments came in the wake of an eight-month investigation by the Post and Courier into problems, institutional and otherwise, facing the state’s education system.