As The South Carolina State Legislature came to a close last week and legislators returned to their local communities and campaigns in their bids for re-election, thousands of students in the state’s ‘Corridor of Shame’ will be forced to continue attending substandard schools although the South Carolina Supreme Court ordered the legislature this year to come up with a method to improve those schools.
Despite the state Supreme Court’s mandate that the legislature come up with ways to improve schools in some 40 school districts that 22 years ago sued the state to get better public education options, legislators went home last week to campaign for the June 14 primary elections without resolving the issue.
Last year, the legislature sought to appeal a Supreme Court mandate to provide resources to rural schools in the state’s worst school districts. That was an indication the general assembly would continue to do nothing to insure students in the predominantly Black schools of the ‘Corridor of Shame’ receive a quality education.
The Supreme Court rejected the request to appeal the order issued November 2014 in the 22-year-old case and set a 2016 deadline for the legislature to make something substantial happen.
For the past two sessions, the legislature has offered minimal effort to resolve the issue by allocating just enough funding to keep the Supreme Court at bay. But as both black and white legislators focus their attention on re-election bids, students in the corridor again will return to decrepit and inadequately funded facilities and school districts
South Carolina’s Legislative Black Caucus disconcertingly has been silent on the matter during the five months of the 2016 session. Charleston Dist. 111 Rep. Wendell Gilliard said while the legislature put some $8 million in the state’s budget mainly to impact those schools, it essentially turns its back on rural schools.
The Legislative Black caucus, consisting of 38 members that include 11 senators and 27 representatives, is outnumbered in the Republican controlled legislature, Gilliard said, and most votes are cast along party lines. But despite being out-manned and the perception of silence, the caucus has been on top of the issue, he said. The reality is legislative Black Caucus members only have the alternative of pushing for more money in the next budget, Gilliard said.
Charleston Dist. 42 Sen. Marlon Kimpson agreed very little was done this year to address the issue, due in large part to Republican majorities in the House and Senate. Last year Hollywood Dist. 116 Rep. Robert Brown made an ominously prophetic remark. He said the state historically has refused to invest in educating all children. “It’s a shame it’s still happening,” he said.