State House Report

It’s Not All Bad

Plus: Some Good News for the Palmetto State

By Andy Brack
Wednesday, April 9, 2014

With recent doom and gloom about the myriad challenges faced by South Carolina, it’s time to take a step back in this season of rebirth and take a good look at other happenings.

Yes, one in five South Carolinians live in poverty and need health insurance. But that also means that four in five don’t. Lots of people have a good quality of life, which explains why more than 1.5 million people have moved to the American South in the last couple of years. So consider these good news tidbits:

Teen pregnancy rate down. Thanks in part to the championing effort of the S.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and the prescience of the state Legislature a few years ago to fund pregnancy prevention efforts statewide, South Carolina’s teen pregnancy rate is down 47 percent over 20 years to 36.5 births for 15- to 19-year olds per 1,000 babies born. That’s the lowest recorded rate in state history.

Columbia’s Joy Campbell, who started the organization 20 years ago, reflects that no one would have believed such a dramatic impact would have been possible in two decades. “It is a living testament to the progress that can be made and the success that can be achieved when our state invests in proven effective strategies,” she notes. “From the beginning, the Campaign set measurable goals and objectives, implemented evidence-based programming, stayed the course and, as a result, has realized what was once unimaginable change.”

Cool schools. While schools in rural areas need a lot of help to offer more opportunities for rural students, the state has some cool schools that are doing some pretty neat things.

• Engineering for kids. Greenville offers an elementary school of engineering. Yes, engineering. Talk about a commitment to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The A.J. Whittenberg Elementary School of Engineering incorporates lots of science in young students’ courses of study. And get this: The school’s team for Lego Robotics — a worldwide competition that is to science students what football is for athletes — is the only one from an American elementary school that won the right to compete in a German competition, according to Forbes. 

• Solar school. An Edgefield County middle school is now a Green Power Solar School thanks to solar array provided through a partnership of the Aiken Electric Cooperative, Santee Cooper and the local school district. The 2-kilowatt solar panels will allow students to get lots of hands-on learning about renewable resources.

• Academy of scholars. A Charleston public charter school, Palmetto Scholars Academy, offers a unique curriculum for gifted and talented students starting in sixth grade. Open to students across the state, it focuses on meeting needs of intellectually gifted learners and guides them at their own paces, which can be light years faster than smart kids stuck in traditional classrooms.

BMW expansion. Recent news of BMW’s continued investment — another $1 billion and 800 more jobs — shows the company’s commitment to the state. In the 20 years it has been building cars in the Upstate, it has expanded five times. By 2016, it’s expected to be able to produce 450,000 vehicles a year. By then, it should have 8,800 employees. Wow.

Jobless rate. The state’s jobless rate has dropped to less than 6 percent — quite a feat over double-digit levels from the recent Great Recession. Hats off to lots of people in state government and business who worked hard to reinvigorate the Palmetto State. Now, let’s get to work on improving education in substandard schools.

Despite this good news, the General Assembly still can’t stop being dumb sometimes, such as the colossal mistake this month to not re-elect Dan Ravenel of Charleston to the College of Charleston Board of Trustees.

Ravenel, a former chair of the state Commission of Higher Education who was unopposed, is a smart conservative with good judgment about higher education. For the Legislature — and GOP state Sen. Larry Grooms of Berkeley County in particular — to inject petty politics into his election shows a continuing immature micromanagement of state government. 

Andy Brack is editor and publisher of Statehouse Report. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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