Magazine article District Administration

Justice for Impoverished Schools, 21 Years in the Making

Magazine article District Administration

Justice for Impoverished Schools, 21 Years in the Making

Article excerpt

After more than two decades, rural schools in South Carolina are tasting a sweet historic victory. The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in November that the state funding formula denies many poor, rural students their right to an adequate education--21 years after several districts first filed the lawsuit.

Large percentages of students in high-poverty rural districts are unable to meet minimal benchmarks on standardized tests, but are pushed through the system to graduation, the court wrote.

"Part of the reason I think the lawsuit extended for over two decades is because the state legislators had not come to grips with what equity is," says Vashti Washington, superintendent of Jasper County Public Schools, one of the districts that filed the complaint. "To some, equity is when you give everybody the same amount of money, not realizing that in systems with a higher percentage of poverty and consistent academic struggles, it is not the same."

The court also found that many uncertified teachers-- and those who did not meet competency standards--have been concentrated in high-poverty rural schools, often teaching math, English and other core subjects. The ruling states that the two-hour bus rides that many students face each way to school are barriers to learning.

The lawsuit, Abbeville County School District, et. al. v. the State of South Carolina, was first filed on behalf of 36 rural, high-poverty districts in 1993. The districts alleged that the state's 1977 K12 funding formula was unconstitutional because the property tax base in their districts prevented them from creating local revenue at the same rates generated by wealthier school systems. …

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