Archives for category: South Carolina

A judge in South Carolina granted a temporary restraining order to stop the governor from giving $32 million of the state’s $48 million in coronavirus relief to pay for vouchers.

Governor McMaster wanted to use coronavirus relief aid to pay the tuition of 5,000 kids in private schools while stiffing the 800,000 kids in public schools.

It is not clear why pandemic relief money should be diverted to vouchers when it was intended to protect the health of students.

Not so fast, governor. A judge hit the pause button, at least temporarily, on Republican Gov. Henry McMaster’s plan to put $32 million in federal COVID-19 aid toward helping parents with private school tuition this year. As reported by The Post and Courier’s Jamie Lovegrove, Orangeburg attorney Skyler Hutto filed a motion in court claiming that the effort to give public funds for private school tuition goes against the state constitution. Judge Edgar Dickson granted Hutto — who is the son of longtime Democratic state Sen. Brad Hutto — a temporary restraining order in the matter. As Free Times was going to press, court arguments were set to be heard in the matter this week. As reported by Lovegrove, Hutto filed the suit on behalf of a public educator from Orangeburg and cited a section of the state constitution that says, “No money shall be paid from public funds nor shall the credit of the State or any of its political subdivisions be used for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.”

Meanwhile, McMaster’s office insists the governor’s plan is proper. “Working families in South Carolina are struggling to make ends meet during this pandemic and every parent should have the opportunity to choose the educational instruction that best suits their child’s needs,” McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes said. “Federal coronavirus relief cannot, and should not, be denied to any citizen in need.”

Convoluted logic.

Congress appropriated $13.2 billion for public schools to help them weather the coronavirus pandemic, which is causing cuts and layoffs.

South Carolina received $48 million in CARES funds.

Governor Henry McMaster has allotted $32 million of that total to underwrite vouchers for private schools.

Dr. Thomasena Adams, an educator and resident of Orangeburg, South Carolina, filed suit to block the Governor’s action. The lawsuit says the governor is giving a disproportionate amount of money to the 5,000 students who use vouchers, while shorting the 800,000 in public schools.

A circuit court judge in Orangeburg signed a temporary restraining order to block disbursement of the $32 million to voucher students.

Under the governor’s plan, students in Orangeburg public schools will receive $473 each, while voucher students will receive $6,500 each.

 

I have written before about Arnold and Carol Hillman. See here and here. They were educators in Pennsylvania who retired to South Carolina. Being educators, they couldn’t really retire; they got involved. They created an organization called the South Carolina Organization of Rural Schools, to raise awareness of the schools that are underfunded in impoverished rural areas (check out its Facebook page). They visited the public schools of Jasper County, met the students, and discovered their new purpose in life. Arnold created a club for boys called the Jasper Gentlemen. Carol created a club for girls called the Diamonds and Pearls. They raised money to pay for trips, experiences, blazers, pizza, and college visits. I hear from them from time to time. They are wild about these kids and want them to have good lives. They love them.

Here is their latest report:

 

Benefits of the ROSO (Reach One Save One) Program

By Carol and Arnold Hillman founders of SCORS (South Carolina Organization of Rural Schools)

Four Years Ago:

In 2015 Carol and Arnold Hillman approached Dr. Vashti Washington, then superintendent of the Jasper County Schools. They said, “We just moved from Pennsylvania to South Carolina and want to learn about public education in our new home. She directed them to Dr. L.R. Dinkins, who described his idea of the ROSO program (Reach One Save One). His vision was for a group of high school students to learn leadership, problem-solving and important life skills that would not only benefit them but teach them to mentor 5th graders who were in need of some special attention.

Diamonds and Pearls and the Jasper Gentlemen were born.

Today:

May 22, 2019, was an exciting and tiring day. We took Carol’s group, “Diamonds and Pearls,” to the University of South Carolina. The 10 girls, who are freshman and sophomores at the Ridgeland-Hardeeville High School in Jasper County, SC, spent a wonderful day learning about the University in particular and about higher education in general.

Dr. Pedersen, Dean of the College of Education at the University, is a member of the SCORS steering Committee and is frequently in touch with us and other members of the committee. Carol had been describing her work with the young ladies to Dr. Pedersen when he extended an invitation to them.

We were fortunate that the Jasper County school district, on rather short notice, arranged for a small bus which allowed us to wend our way two hours plus across route 95 and then route 26 to Columbia.

After what the girls felt was an “all too short” visit to one of the USC’s bookstores, they had opportunities to interact with many of the members of the USC College of Education. They took a tour of the campus and even meet Pierce McNair, who is the legislative aide to Chairperson Rep. Rita Allison, chairman of the SC House Education Committee.

The girls, who had never visited USC before, were thrilled. It was so reassuring to learn about the many programs that are in place to help minorities succeed on this big campus. We learned that African American women have the highest completion rate of any group attending the University and saw an exhibit about major events that struck our country in 1968- assassinations of MLK and Robert Kennedy. Perhaps most impressive were the stories members of the Education Dept. shared with us about their own backgrounds and the many different jobs they held as they made their way to their present positions.

The Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Dr. Hodges, offered that he and his staff would be happy to come to Jasper County to speak to our students and staff.

Not only did our girls get to know the University, but the visit gave the Jasper County School District an opportunity to showcase some of their outstanding students.

The University is looking for good students, and our students are looking for good colleges. A visit such as the one we made is more meaningful that just completing on online application or reading that application.

You may have read an article posted on the scors.org website about how colleges, very frequently, do not mine rural students, either scholastically or athletically. We are hoping our visit opened new pathways and an understanding of our students, who are fair representatives of our part of rural South Carolina.

Diamonds and Pearls and the Jasper Gents have been at this work for four years, many of the senior boys have become so competent that this year, the elementary school gave the Gents an additional group of fifth grade boys who were very troubled. The seniors did a special job with those boys and from what we can tell, had some positive impact.

We are pleased to report that next year will be our fifth year working with these two groups. This year was especially gratifying because out of the seven senior Gents, six will be off to college and one will enter the Marine Corps.

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Peter Greene has a rapier sharp wit, which he wields so deftly that the object of his attention has been beheaded without knowing what happened. If you want to see him at his best, read this mystery: Who is murdering Charter Schools? 

Teachers?

Unions?

Lobbyists?

If you live in the real world, the people fighting privatization are heroic defenders of the commonweal, protecting the public interest against the Waltons, the Koch brothers, DeVos, and other private interests.

Several weeks ago, I told the story of Arnold and Carol Hillman, who retired as educators in Pennsylvania and moved to South Carolina. Instead of living a life of relaxation and leisure, they threw themselves into volunteer work on behalf of rural schools and created clubs and activities for high school students in a nearby school. I named them to the honor roll of the Blog for their many acts of goodness.

I recently received this email from Arnold.

Diane,

Many wonderful things have happened as a result of your posting of our story on your blog. The most important one was that the chairperson of the House Education Committee called us to talk about what we are doing and how we could help her with rural schools.

We spent a couple of hours with her. She is the majority chair, a former school board member and someone who has traveled around the state to see firsthand what is happening. We can only say thank you.

Arnold and Carol Hillman

I wrote back, and Arnold sent me a photograph of the group of young men he sponsors, called the Jasper Gentlemen. They were wearing matching red blazers and were very handsome.

I asked how he paid for the blazers, and he wrote:

We have gotten donations from friends in PA and local organizations. We pay for any residual cost. We also can only meet with the Gents and the Diamonds and Pearls (young ladies) during lunchtime. We probably bribe them with pizza, Subway and wings. Carol and I pay for the food during the year. We meet with the groups about 3 times a month. We also arrange for an etiquette luncheon. We hire a woman from Georgia who does a great job. We pay for that with donations and sometimes ourselves.

We also take the youngsters to various colleges. Sometimes the colleges pay for lunch. Oft times, the kids pay for a fast food meal. If they don’t have the dough, either the teachers or Carol and I pay. We also give a $2000 dollar scholarship to a graduating senior. We are happy to do all of this “stuff.”

Note to Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jeff Bezos: Goodness is its own reward. Learn from the Hillmans.

Dear Friends,

We are watching the ordeal of your region with concern.

The whole nation is watching.

We send you warm wishes for your safety.

At a time like this, we are reminded about why people need to work together, help one another, and count on their neighbors and communities. In times of crisis, everyone stands together, without regard to race or religion or economic status. It should be like that without a crisis.

We look forward to the day when your beautiful part of the world is rebuilt, restored, and revived.

Meanwhile, stay safe.

Diane

Arnold Hillman is co-founder of the South Carolina Organization for Rural Schools, with his wife Carol. They retired as educators in Pennsylvania and moved to Hilton Head, South Carolina. But instead of relaxing, taking long walks, and fishing, they found themselves drawn to a new mission: helping the state’s underfunded rural schools. This is a good “retirement.” Some locals were amazed, seeing this couple throw themselves into helping local children and schools as volunteers.

They did not not fit the stereotype of retired Yankees,as a local wrote:

“Here’s the popular stereotype: they move here but for a long time still drive around with car tags from Ohio, Pennsylvania and such. They don’t change their cell phone numbers from 614, 309 or 315 to 843, 803 or 864. They walk around with sweatshirts from Ohio State and Michigan, not Clemson or USC…

“Well, I’d like to tell you about two Yankees I recently met and what they are doing here in South Carolina. In 2015, Carol and Arnold Hillman moved from Pennsylvania and re-located to the Sun City Retirement Community at Hilton Head. But unlike the stereotypes of newcomers who spend all their time playing golf and complaining with their fellow transplants about the locals, the Hillmans began to travel around the Lowcountry.

“One day they found themselves in Jasper County where they struck up a conversation with some folks about the schools – they had both been in education in Pennsylvania. One thing led to another and after some conversations with Dr. Vashti Washington, former Superintendent of Schools, they began volunteering at Ridgeland-Hardeeville High School mentoring students.

“One can imagine the culture shock that followed. The nearly 100% African American students couldn’t understand why these old white folks from some place they had never heard of were hanging around asking questions. And the Hillman’s couldn’t understand the ‘cultural folk ways’ of teenagers in rural Jasper county – you get the picture.

“But the Hillmans were committed, “We didn’t care if the kids were good students or even if they were well behaved; all we wanted was to work with students.”

“Carol was soon meeting with a group of 10 girls. They talked about everything from the difference between credit and debit cards to how to choose a good college and the benefits of going into the military. They met right after the students ate lunch and Carol provided snacks. “Sometimes we weren’t sure if they came for the milk and cookies or to learn something, but we figured, ‘whatever works,” Hillman laughed.

“Carol’s story about one girl is truly inspiring. “Lauren (not her real name) explained that she was 16, had a baby with cerebral palsy and was living with her grandmother who had raised her. Grandma had cancer and Lauren was trying to take care of her, care for her baby and go to school. By now she was crying. It seems her greatest desire was to graduate with her class in June 2017, but she had missed so many days in the past year that she was failing too many classes.”

“All summer long Lauren and Carol stayed in touch by email as Lauren did not have a cell phone. “When she was down, I would remind her that she was smart and capable and that we would both be ecstatic when she graduated on time. When she was happy, I’d celebrate with her and remind her of how proud I was of her. She passed both of her summer school classes! Here it is, October of her senior year and so far, she is coming to school on a regular basis. I’m delighted to report that Lauren is on track to reach her goal of graduating on time.”

“Meanwhile, Arnold set up a program called Jasper Gentleman, 10 senior young men who could use some mentoring and who in turn helped younger students in fourth and fifth grade. Arnold explains, “Each of the young men were enthusiastic about doing the mentoring. They were also very interested in what was happening in the world and how they might achieve their goals. We spent months talking about colleges, the military, job possibilities, community happenings and how they might improve the high school. We took a trip to the branch campus of the University of South Carolina in Bluffton, arranged for an etiquette lunch (which turned out to be lunch without etiquette) and concentrated on the next steps in their lives.”

“Carol and I attended 11 basketball games, both home and away. A number of the Gents were on the team, but it was the community that encouraged us to go to the games and later on to community events. You see, rural people have been taken advantage of so many times across our country and are naturally suspicious of outsiders. Sometimes, Carol and I were the only snowflakes in the gymnasium. We became fixtures and the folks seemed to welcome us. Sometimes, at away games, they even saved seats for us. They are wonderful people, as are their children.”

“The Hillmans met with State Superintendent Molly Spearman about how their work in Jasper could be spread to other rural districts around the state. Spearman was encouraging to the Hillmans and they have since established the South Carolina Organization of Rural Schools to help others learn from their experiences. Go to their website http://www.scorsweb.org and see how you can get involved.”

Are the Hillmans amazing or what?

As I read the story above out loud, I started crying. Why? I was moved by their goodness. Just two educators helping kids.

Arnold writes here about the misguided national narrative of teacher-bashing and public school-bashing.

He emphasizes the crucial role that public schools play in the lives of the state’s poorest children.

“Public schools are for everyone. They do not have the capacity, as to private schools and now even some “public”charter schools, to throw children out for whatever reason. They must deal with whoever walks through those school doors. Their job goes on even in the face of governmental obstruction, mass shootings, or the reduction of funding.

“Public schools still turn out the overwhelming number of American Nobel Prize winners. While other countries select their most talented to take international tests, we include everyone, and suffer for it. While media make fun of public schools by having characters say, “You’ll have to excuse me, I went to public school,” public schools still turn out the best and brightest.

“Public schools have taken generations of immigrants to this country and have taught them to be contributing citizens. When you hear a critic say, “Why didn’t the schools teach these kids . . .,” you might step back and ask, how many more things do you want the public schools to teach?

“Having traveled around South Carolina to visit our rural schools over the past 2 years, we have seen how educators are coping with the burdens put on them. There is not a moment in their day that they don’t put forth massive effort to help their students reach their potential. If you have not seen that effort, then you have not been in one of our rural schools.

“For all of their Herculean efforts, they do not complain. Once in a great while, you might see them stand up, as they did in the Abbeville case, or pleading with the legislature to provide them with the proper resources for their students. However, their primary goal is to teach the children and they do that so well.”

These two good people are definitely on the blog honor roll.

Betsy DeVos loves virtual charters, but they have dreadful records. Even her like-minded Choice zealots Are backing away from this money-making machines.

In South Carolina, the state agency in charge of charter schools refused to allow some Virtual charters to change authorizers, which would enable them to restart the time clock on failure.

“Following months of political tensions and a contentious public hearing, the South Carolina agency that oversees 39 of the state’s charter schools has signed off on the requests of five charters seeking permission to transfer to a new sponsor. Another four, though, including three online schools, are in “breach” status because of persistently poor performance and will not be allowed to leave.

“We don’t feel that’s taking care of our fiduciary duties,” Don McLaurin, chair of the statewide South Carolina Public Charter School Board, said of the underperforming schools’ request to leave. “That’s just not how you improve education.”

“The three virtual schools — the Cyber Academy of South Carolina, the S.C. Virtual Charter School, and Odyssey Online Learning — all contract with the for-profit, publicly traded K12 Inc. for services ranging from day-to-day operations and instruction to curriculum. The fourth, Midlands STEM Institute, is a technology-focused “bricks-and-mortar” public charter school located near the city of Columbia.

“Separately, the state’s Office of the Inspector General is examining data the schools submit to the board that raise questions about enrollment and attendance at the four schools whose transfer requests were denied. Early in the hearing at which the transfer requests were heard, board members were told the auditors have found nothing so far that should factor into their decision.

“Other states and charter school authorizers that have attempted to shutter poorly performing online schools with for-profit operators have found themselves waging wars of attrition, with the companies spending lavishly on lobbying and donating to sympathetic elected officials.

“South Carolina, where 10,000 of the state’s 26,000 charter school students attend virtual schools, is shaping up to be no exception. According to public disclosures analyzed by The 74 in a previous story, the for-profit schools and their representatives have spent nearly $1 million in the state since 2010. In 2015 the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, better known as CREDO, found that online schools have an “overwhelming negative impact” on student growth.”

K12 Inc. is great for profits, not very goood for students or taxpayers.

Paul Thomas summarizes the long conservative tradition of racism and classicism in South Carolina, once the property of the Democrats, now the domain of Republicans.

The politicians never wanted to spend money on black and poor children. Even the judiciary says it’s time to stop throwing money at schools, which has never happened.

“SC public schools (and public universities, in fact) exist in 2017 as a bold middle finger to everything promised by a democratic nation. But despite the political rhetoric, SC has failed its public schools; public schools have not failed our state, whose political leaders care none at all about poor, black, or brown children being currently (and historically) mis-served by K-12 education….

“Political and judicial negligence in SC—a microcosm of the same negligence nationally—remains entrenched in commitments to ideology over evidence, hard truths neither political leadership nor judicial pronouncements will admit.

“First, and foremost, one hard truth is that public schools in SC are mostly labeled failures or successes based on the coincidence of what communities and students those schools serve. Schools serving affluent (and mostly white) communities and students are framed as “good” schools while schools serving poor (and often black and brown while also over-serving English language learners and students with special needs) communities and students are framed as “bad” or “failing.”

“This political lie is grounded in the three-decades political charade called education reform—a bureaucratic nightmare committed to accountability, standards, and testing as well as a false promise that in-school only reform could somehow overcome the negative consequences of social inequity driven by systemic racism, classism, and sexism.

“The ironic and cruel lesson of education reform has been that education is not the great equalizer.

“Education reform is nothing more than a conservative political fetish, a gross good-ol’-boy system of lies and deception.

“Second, and in most ways secondary, another hard truth is that while education is not the great equalizer, public schooling tends to reflect and then perpetuate the inequities that burden the lives of vulnerable children.

“In-school only reform driven by accountability, standards, and testing fails by being both in-school only (no education reform will rise about an absence of social/policy reform that addresses racism and poverty) and mechanisms of inequity themselves.

“Affluent and white students are apt to experience a higher quality of formal schooling than black, brown, and poor students, who tend to be tracked early and often into reduced conditions that include test-prep, “basic” courses, and teachers who are early career and often un-/under-certified.

“Nested in this hard truth is that much of accountability-based education reform depends on high-stakes standardized testing, which is itself a deeply flawed and biased instrument. Tests allow political negligence since data appear to be objective and scientific; in fact, standardized testing remains race, class, and gender biased.

“Like school quality, test scores are mostly a reflection of non-academic factors.”

Bottom line: racism and classism.

This is a heartbreaking story.

A young man appeared at a playground in Townsville, South Carolina, where first-graders were playing. He opened fire. A child died. The shooter, it turned out, was not a man. He was 14 years old. He stopped when his gun jammed. He was captured.

There are states and cities that think the answer to school shootings is to arm teachers. Given the speed of this shooting, no one could have stopped it. Twelve seconds. The teachers, if they were armed, could have shot him, but the child would still be dead.

This is madness.