If there’s one thing that permeates our culture, it’s that we want the best — the winning sports team, the best doctor to treat cancer, the best tax rate, the best choices at the store. Just name the product or service, and we want the best.
Would we want a minimally adequate football team at Carolina or Clemson? No. A coach who lost season after season wouldn’t be tolerated by anyone from fans to a governor.
Would we want to hire a minimally adequate doctor, lawyer or dentist? No, no and no.
How about on a larger scale: Would we accept a minimally adequate power company? A minimally adequate port? A minimally adequate police department? A minimally adequate car? No, times four.
So why in the world do we in South Carolina continue to accept “minimally adequate education” as the standard for our state’s schools? Can’t we do better?
The answer is apparently not, because bills to change the state constitution to require a high-quality education have floundered over the years.
Some historical context: Back in 1993, 40 poor school districts sued the state to get more funding for public education. It’s generally accepted that these schools, some of which were profiled in Bud Ferillo’s 2005 Corridor of Shame film, haven’t had the money to provide the same quality of education found in richer counties of the state.
A few years later, the case was appealed to the state Supreme Court, which ruled in 1999 that all that the state constitution required of public education was a “minimally adequate education.” The court defined the phrase as including the ability to read, write and speak English; understand basic economic, social and political systems, history and governmental processes; and receive academic and vocational skills.
This standard — setting a minimum expectation — caused lots of criticism 15 years ago. Even today, former Chief Justice Ernest Finney, who hammered out the wording on the decision, has admitted that it “was probably not the brightest moment in my career.”
Since the 1999 ruling, a circuit court decided in 2004 after 102 days of a trial with 102 witnesses that poor kids in poor districts did not, in fact, get a “minimally adequate” education up to the third grade, but did after that. So the judge required the state to fund early childhood intervention programs to satisfy the “minimally adequate” standard.
But as we’ve written before, that didn’t make anyone happy, so both sides appealed, the case continued and it headed back to the Supreme
Court in June 2008, where it still sits almost six years later. And today, the state continues to have a low bar for performance of public schools.
Wonder what folks today think about that? Here are some Facebook comments recently posted:
• “We certainly have a less than minimally-adequate state government and far less than minimally adequate representation in D.C.”
• “Our school system is inadequate to prepare our citizens (myself included) to understand exactly what minimally adequate means and how to differentiate that concept from thoroughly inadequate.”
• “‘Minimally adequate’ is not an acceptable standard because it is neither aspirational nor sufficient. Did Steve Jobs or Bill Gates set out to create a “minimally adequate” technology company? ... There is no substitute for striving for excellence (and providing the funding to achieve that goal). That’s the only standard that will make our state and its workers competitive in the global economy.”
• “Until South Carolina decides that education and educators are valuable — valuable enough to tax themselves to fund it — hang it up. A business model of education doesn’t work.”
• “One reason I am moving out of South Carolina [is] I am tired of too many citizens accepting mediocrity.”
Let’s not continue to accept a minimally adequate educational system. Let state leaders have the courage — especially with budget talks happening this week on the House floor — to do something about it instead of continuing to lollygag.
Ferillo has a new film that will challenge leaders anew to fund education properly. It comes out this month. To learn more about it, go to statehousereport.com.
Accepting Applications for Shakespeare’s Kidz!
Students ages 10-16 are invited to join South Carolina Shakespeare’s new youth company, with classes running September 20th-December 11th followed by a final performance. Contact Katie Mixon with questions about scholarships and applications: PKatieMixon@gmail.com.
Brew Pub Site Available
3520 Augusta Road, West Columbia. Click for more information.
Make Your Own Beer and Wine!
Come get started on your “liquid hobby” and help us celebrate our 46th year in the Columbia area. Bet Mar Liquid Hobby Shop: 736 St. Andrews Road.
Happy Hour and Sushi Specials All Week
Red Bowl in Lexington now has great early bird and late night sushi specials 7 days a week, as well as 99-cent kids meals on Saturdays! Click here for special information and hours.
SEARCH FREE TIMES
U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com
Free Times is looking for a highly organized, detail-oriented self-starter to assist in gathering material from advertisers, coordinating between the sales and production departments, and handling routine clerical tasks. Must be proficient on a Mac, able to conduct business via phone, email, text, Dropbox, social media platforms and face to face while under deadline in a fast-paced, sometimes distracting work environment. The position requires the ability to multitask, excellent oral and written communication skills, and solid experience in quickly learning new computer programs. This is a full time position with benefits. Send a cover letter, resume and salary expectation to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wing Zone is now hiring for experienced delivery drivers, cooks & cashiers. Apply in person @ 132 Assembly St. or call 803-933-9464.
Real Estate Spotlight
Mungo Homes. Celebrating 60 years of our family building for your family. mungo.com