Editorial: South Carolina Must Overhaul Its Education System

Story by VFutrell / November 21, 2018

Editorial Submitted to Post and Courier

Every few years, the state Legislature convenes a special panel or committee to recommend improvements to education but, unsurprisingly, none of these quick fixes have worked.

The state needs to treat its education problems as a crisis and overhaul a system that continues to fail our children.

Despite pouring billions of dollars into education, too many schools continue to produce students unprepared for work or college. There have been vast improvements in some areas, but the fact is that while some students get a solid foundation for life, others are unfairly consigned to something substantially less. In a broad sense, that amounts to public officials choosing which of our children likely will succeed and which of them will not. Government isn’t supposed to pick winners and losers in the marketplace. It certainly should not have that power over its citizens.

The Post and Courier’s five-part series, “Minimally Adequate,” examines many of South Carolina’s chronic problems and the way they still divide the state into rich and poor, black and white. It traces much of the state’s school woes to the lingering effects of racist policies of the past and decades of neglect.

In recent times, the state also has settled into a cycle of applying Band-Aids to the state’s substantial education problems, an insufficient method for making meaningful improvements. Doing this over and over again is a waste of taxpayer money, and it’s hugely unfair to students, parents and even businesses that rely on an educated workforce for their success.

We should acknowledge there have been improvements. But listing them here would be a distraction from the state’s broad failure to provide even the odious “minimally adequate” education that the state Supreme Court says should be available to every child. How can schools succeed when the bar is set so low?

State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman has shown a willingness to go against the status quo with moves such as consolidating smaller school districts and taking over failing ones. It’s a good start. However, as the newspaper’s series points out, there are many more problems that must be addressed.

For instance, teachers need more freedom in the classroom and should have more support with student discipline. Addressing those problems and more competitive teacher pay would help stop the revolving door of teachers coming and going.

Other struggling states such as Mississippi and Louisiana are getting results after overhauling their curriculums and raising their academic standards. South Carolina, plagued by low standards and expectations, should follow suit.

There are other examples of success here in South Carolina that should be replicated. For example, the state should incorporate the successful blueprint used to educate under-resourced children at Meeting Street Schools. The public-private partnership employs innovative strategies such as two teachers in classrooms.

Editorially, we continue to support allowing parents to pull their children out of failing schools. Choice schools such as charters and magnets will remain a necessary option for parents who want to bolster the chances of educational success for their children. The Charleston Charter School for Math and Science on the peninsula, for instance, has a diverse student body and about a 90 percent college acceptance rate.

And we have implored Gov. Henry McMaster to take a central role in remaking the education system. His focus has been on the ties between education and the needs of business, a pragmatic view that could spur some to action. Businesses, both large and small, must be part of the solution too.

But the power in South Carolina resides in the Legislature, and therein lies much of the problem. While agreeing that the education system is broken, there is no consensus on how to fix it.

So no one person takes the blame and nothing gets done. Lawmakers must make overhauling the education system a priority while also dealing with other issues. It won’t be easy, but lawmakers hold the key to make meaningful changes. That should include adjustments to the state’s antiquated funding formula and to Act 388, which has provided tax breaks for homeowners at the expense of schools.

And, naturally, school board members in every district need to focus on systemic rather than small changes.

Leaders across the state must do a thorough examination of what works, throw out the rest, and bring back best practices from states that have seen success with education reforms.

South Carolina residents from all walks of life also must be involved in encouraging a top-to-bottom rethinking of education. They should demand decisive action from elected leaders at all levels.

The education crisis won’t be overcome with the same old stopgap measures, as the newspaper’s series rightly concludes. It will take an overhaul to ensure that every child finally gets the quality education they deserve. Improvements won’t come without a cost, but the expense is warranted. Indeed, it is necessary.

 

Make A DifferenceJoin Us!

Join a community of incredible, passionate people working to change the lives of our students. Our compensation and benefits are a cut above the rest: the most competitive total compensation in the region.

Start Your Career!

About Meeting Street Schools

Meeting Street Schools (MSS) is an innovative non-profit where schools, families, and the community collaborate to create environments where all children can achieve their full potential. With a network of schools across South Carolina, including MSA-Charleston (Charleston, SC), MSA-Spartanburg (Spartanburg, SC), MS-Brentwood (North Charleston, SC), MS-Burns (North Charleston, SC), and MS-Jasper & Beaufort (Jasper, SC), we are committed to providing students with the rigorous education they deserve.

Founded on the principle that every child deserves an excellent education regardless of their socio-economic background, Meeting Street Schools has been a beacon of hope and a testament to what's possible in education. Our schools are driven by a strong focus on student achievement, evidence-based instruction, and relentless support of our students and their families.

While united by our shared mission, each MSS campus, is unique in its character, tapping into the local spirit of the communities they serve. Explore each of our schools and discover how they're creating a brighter future for students in South Carolina.

News & NotesFrom Clemson University to Master Teacher and Player Coach: Emily Godwin

Read More

Our Schools

MSA – CharlestonDowntown Charleston, SC - Independent School - Since 2008 - 364 Students

Nestled in the heart of Charleston, South Carolina, MSA Charleston is more than just a school—it’s a hub for innovative learning and community engagement. As part of the Meeting Street Schools network, MSA Charleston embodies a commitment to excellence through its rigorous academic programs, inclusive culture, and focus on developing the whole child. With a curriculum that emphasizes both academic and personal growth, MSA Charleston prepares students to be curious learners and active citizens of their community.

MSA – SpartanburgDowntown Spartanburg, SC - Public School - Since 2012 - 323 Students

MSA Spartanburg stands as a pillar of educational innovation in the Spartanburg community. The school’s dedicated educators and supportive learning environment ensure that each child receives a high-quality, personalized education with exceptional faculty and teachers. MSA Spartanburg is distinguished by its emphasis on community partnership, fostering relationships that extend beyond the classroom to build a strong foundation for lifelong learning and success.

MS – BrentwoodNorth Charleston, SC - Public School - Since 2014 - 694 Students

MS Brentwood is a place where education meets opportunity. Serving the Brentwood area, this school is a testament to the transformative power of education. With a student-centered approach that celebrates diversity and encourages excellence, MS Brentwood is dedicated to equipping students with the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century. MS Brentwood also serves as a hub for the Brentwood community to access educational and wellness services. The school’s commitment to innovation, coupled with a warm, welcoming environment, makes it a standout in the MSS network.

MS – BurnsNorth Charleston, SC - Public School - Since 2018 - 478 Students

Located in a community rich with history and culture, MS Burns is renowned for its dynamic educational approach that intertwines traditional learning with modern teaching techniques. The school’s focus on experiential learning ensures that students at MS Burns are not only recipients of knowledge but also active participants in their educational journey. MS Burns exists to spark an educational revolution for the students and families in the Dorchester-Waylyn Neighborhood in North Charleston. With a commitment to creating a supportive and challenging academic environment, MS Burns is forging a new path in public education.

MS – Jasper & BeaufortJasper County, SC - Public Charter School - Fall 2023 -

MS Jasper represents the Meeting Street Schools’ dedication to community-based education with a global perspective. The school provides a nurturing environment where students are encouraged to explore their potential and cultivate a love for learning. With its diverse programs such as Eureka Math, and Wit and Wisdom, MS Jasper puts a major emphasis on character development, specialized learning and equips students to become thoughtful, engaged members of society, reflecting the MSS ethos of empowerment through education.

CommunityVoices

  • 1/3

“MSA is a family. Once you’re in, you’re in. They said they would follow our kids from K-3 to college and they actually lived up to what they said they would do. Not only did MSA challenge my daughter academically but it also exposed her to new things that she probably wouldn’t have been exposed to at our previous neighborhood school. Our journey at MSA was exciting and rewarding. They actually walk the walk.”

— Tyeka GrantParent

  • 2/3

“We come into work everyday truly believing that our students are capable of achieving anything that is put in front of them. Here at MSS, students are provided the opportunity to achieve success through the facilitation of well-educated teachers, resources, and a responsive classroom school environment.”

— NikToshia GilesTeacher

  • 3/3

“Meeting Street Academy is my family. They taught me that I am valuable. I am an asset to the world…They asked me, ‘What is your dream?’ I had never been asked that before. The MSS community gives me the strength to pursue my dreams.”

— Kadelyn SteedStudent