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Public Education: Public Challenges
10/23/2013 12:57:13 PM

By Beverly Gadson-Birch

Several years ago I was concerned with the rising number of Charter Schools springing up within the public school system and labeled as public schools.

One of my concerns was the new concept would drain much needed dollars and high achieving students away from traditional public schools. I am sure there are those who will agree with me that traditional public schools needed fixing.

However, instead of finding a way to fix public schools that would be inclusive of all students, there are those that are intent on draining the funding and therefore choking the life out of traditional public schools as we now know it.

I have been part of a drive for the past 12 years to use the old abandoned Rivers High School for a high tech vocational school. The school sat abandoned for years. It was the perfect place for “diverse learning” and central to students in the outlying areas if the system was truly committed to diversity. By the way, I continue to hear the word diversity and I am wondering if this is the new term for “selective integration”, “handpicked” crème de la crème integration.

Our society cannot be any better than the students that it produces. Therefore, it is wise to produce highly competitive students that come from diverse backgrounds with diverse education and training.

The move behind the high tech school was to get a jump start preparing students for the industries or businesses slated to open or expand their presence in the low country within the next few years like Boeing Aircraft, Clemson Wind Turbine, BMW, etc.

Being an entrepreneur for some 26 years opened my eyes to the lack of preparedness of the local work force. Our young people lacked the skills for the high tech jobs through no fault of their own. The courses weren’t being offered at their schools. Garrett School was created to be such a school and for a time it was #1 and highly recognized nationally.

However, the course offerings were limited to mostly traditional careers. As the racial makeup of the school changed, so did the support from the district. The school needs extensive renovations and equipment updated.

My fight has been for all students to have a fair opportunity to a challenging education whether it be traditional, advance or high tech. Although the Low country Tech program at Rivers has not been given equal footing, equal resources and equal blessings, you still have proponents for the Math Science Charter at Rivers trying to kill the program because they want the space.

I really thought I could let the sleeping dog lie this week but some folks just don’t get the message as to the intent of many of the Charter Schools that are springing up in Charleston and across this nation. If public schools are not working then we need to fix the problems but we don’t need to create schools that will negatively impact our present school system.

If Charter Schools continue to spring up within CCSD, they will become our new “private” schools and “public” schools as we know them now will become nonexistent.

Charter Schools will continue to drain off many of our brighter minds and resources that are needed to make public schools more challenging.

And if that isn’t more par for the course, the legislators have added another dog to the fight. A meeting is being held on Wednesday, October 23, at 5:30 PM, North Charleston City Hall, by a Senate Special Finance Subcommittee for public input on Senate Bill 279.

The Bill provides for a “$2,000, tax deduction for parents of home school children, $4,000 tax deduction for tuition, textbook and other fees, and school related transportation paid for a student to attend an independent school, and a $1,000 deduction for public school students to attend a school district which is not their school district of residence. The amounts would be subject to an inflation adjustment beginning with the 2014-15 Fiscal Year.”

By the way, legislators did not leave y’all poor students out. Contributors to nonprofit scholarship funding organizations will get an additional tax credit. Well, whoopee do! After y’all done slice up the public education funds for private endeavors, what’s left.

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