What about the children?

 

Not so long ago, I swore I wouldn’t blog about news-related matters. They’re just so bloody boring.

But a recent event carried the news world into my personal life. Actually, it’s not a single event, but a series – one that holds the potential to drag on and on and on, and eventually affect my daughter.

So here goes nothing.

South Carolina’s new public school CEO (I guess he’s called “superintendent,” but whatever) has announced he will not seek millions and millions of dollars available to states that meet the criteria. Why? It’s federal money.

People who live in South Carolina have heard the following news before, and people outside of South Carolina have jokes about it: student performances on standardized tests comparing S.C. students to those in other states are horrible. The state’s basically ranked 38th in the nation, for all intents and purposes.

That was last year. It’ll be another month or so until they announce this year’s scores.

Considering the massive budget cuts schools had to make thanks to the state not having much money, it’s unlikely the ranking will improve. Laying off teachers and stripping their in-service days traditionally used for lesson planning likely didn’t help in 2010-2011. And why would college students who could end up being very good teachers want to practice their craft in South Carolina? To get furloughed? Fat chance they’ve considered work here.

“Superintendent Mick Zais said Wednesday that money offered through the Race to the Top grant program amounts to federal intrusion in state schools. He says more Washington money won’t solve South Carolina’s education problems and urged a decentralized education policy.”

It’s appalling to read his justification, given the circumstances.

What is with this “federal intrusion” crap? Isn’t the “United States” a term that’s singular rather than plural? Aren’t we – as so many here are proud to post on church signs – “one nation under God?” Exhibit A: public schools need money. Exhibit B: matriculation from high school to college rates, as well as the proportion of college graduates to non-college graduates, in South Carolina are on the decline. And Exhibit C: the federal government has offered more money

Verdict: South Carolina should take money from the nation it’s part of to help its schools.

Naturally, this all comes back to residents’ ideology. These residents elected a governor who sees nothing wrong with getting on national television and preaching about the importance of “states’ rights” – a term I stopped hearing about after eighth-grade history until I moved here. South Carolina seems to have always viewed itself as a sovereign nation, despite the outcome of the terrible war it caused in 1861.

Despite all of this, S.C. residents – like it or not – contribute to that big ol’ pot of federal money when they pay their taxes. Why they’d elect a school superintendent willing to turn down a shot to have some of it back is beyond me.

Of course, I wouldn’t have voted for the governor who initially rejected federal stimulus money shortly before sneaking off to Argentina to cheat on his wife and be with his lover. This is the same guy who snubbed a federal incentive for people to buy energy efficient appliances, but supported a weekend of tax-free gun purchases.

Anyway. Now we’ve got Nikki Haley.

Like Gov. Haley, Zais is a Republican. He’s on the “don’t make people pay taxes for schools their kids don’t attend” team. It seems to me, based on his statements and actions thus far during his young tenure, he’s highly motivated to protect taxpayers.

:et me get this straight. He won’t ask South Carolina residents for more money to help the schools, won’t ask the federal government for more money to help the schools but does expect people to believe he wants to help the schools.

In this endeavor, Zais seems to be forgetting the innocent middlemen: the students themselves. I get that there’s a drive for more charter, private and home schools. I understand that’s the plan for down the road – a plan that will eventually make parents and no one else pay for their children’s education.

That’s fine if it suits South Carolina residents, but what about the children caught in the middle of this transition, which is sure to take decades to complete? What about my daughter, who just finished kindergarten at a public school? Are they to deal with the budget cuts and a quality of education that can only deteriorate under these conditions?

I can’t bring myself to look to private or home schools. The costs and incompatibility with my own work schedule aside, I never want my daughter to be in a class amounting to eight white Christian children. The social education that comes from interacting with other races, personalities and backgrounds is why I bother sending her to school to begin with.

Charter schools seem just as poor as public facilities. Bills to get these new-found wonders have only begun to pass. It’ll be a while before they really take flight.

Luckily, I’ll probably always have the money to pay for Kalista’s schooling if need be. But what about the folks who don’t? What about the statistics stuck in the infamous “cycle of poverty?” Should we punish these particular children – these clean slates who could go down the correct path if shown the way – for their parents not taking care of business? These children could either be leaders of the future or leeches on the system, depending on how they’re educated.

I’ve had enough for now. It’s likely nothing will change unless A.) South Carolina gets over Civil War-era ideology, B.) people like Zais and Haley stop getting elected to important positions, and C.) folks realize educating children in South Carolina is actually quite important.

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