Wednesday, November 12, 2014

From the House

Bluffton Today

Tonight, November 12th, at 6 p.m., is the third and final meeting for public comment on the plans to redistrict the Jasper County School Board. If you are a school parent, or any other Jasper resident with a desire to see your area take its rightful place in a prosperous South Carolina, I urge you to attend. I also hope you will share your thoughts on how best you think your school board may be chosen. If it is your choice to have your school board reapportioned by one person, Senator Pinckney--with no community input, then so be it.

It was three years ago that the legislative districts in our area were reapportioned, resulting in this legislator, Representative Weston Newton, and Senator Tom Davis joining the Jasper legislative delegation. We have, along with my friend and colleague, Representative Bill Bowers, tried to extend the benefits of a more powerful and coherent voice in the statehouse on behalf of Jasper County. We have also tried to provide an example of transparent and open delegation meetings, at which residents could voice opinions they were not allowed to voice in some other venues, specifically the school board meetings.

While Jasper County Council has been a consistently positive force in improving the fortunes of their constituents, the same cannot be said for the majority of current school board members. To the dismay of several board members, school board meetings are anything but transparent or open. We have seen a certain bunker mentality pervade their dealings, to the point of having folks bodily removed from the meetings for the crime of clapping for speakers not espousing the party line. In fact, Representative Newton and I were removed for supporting a young woman apparently clapping out of turn. If the matters under discussion were not of such importance, it would’ve made for great farcical comedy.

Perhaps my two years as chairman of the Jasper legislative delegation is not enough time to properly understand how things are done on school board and its creature, the school district. I know taxes are collected, and dollars are spent, but the results just seem to get worse and worse. I know that Beaufort County has some of the best schools in the state and Jasper County’s seems to always be among the worst. Does it make such a profound difference on which side of Highway 170 one lives? Is it a partisan problem? My colleague, Representative Bowers, is a college professor and a Democrat. He knows firsthand the importance of a good education. He also has deep concerns over how this redistricting is handled.

If I were to surmise from the strong interest in the redistricting, especially from those outside of Jasper County, it almost seems like this is some sort of rural political machine. If the school district hires a lot of folks that don’t seem to get the job done year after year, maybe the rationale of those hires were not about what is best for the kids, and more about the power to hire and whom to hire.

After the recent episode involving the Reverend Darby, I spoke with the IRS and the Justice Department. Apparently, my reports were not the first they had received regarding what we have observed.

The importance of education to the future of the residents of Jasper County is well established. It is one of the best ways to lift the economy and the quality of life of the perennially underperforming county. To relegate the future of the county to the same old failure producing cronyism is inexcusable.

I believe my friend and Jasper County Council chairwoman, Barbara Clark, said it best: “It’s not about what race, color, creed, or the family a kid comes from, it’s simply about the kid.” Enough said. See you tonight.