HICKS COLUMN: Reading is fundamental, or optional?
Earlier this week, the Charleston County School Board declared, once again, that teaching kids to read is important.
So we've got that going for us.
The question is: Why was this even a question?
Board members Elizabeth Moffly and Elizabeth Kandrac opposed putting more money into the district's reading academies, which are designed to make sure kids learn to read when they are supposed to, and don't fall through the cracks. Which should cut down on students showing up for high school reading like fourth-graders.
The program has shown promising success, so it makes sense to keep this going.
But apparently that's not good enough for some folks.
You know, it doesn't take a doctorate in education to realize that reading is sort of important to learning. After all, it's one of the three R's.
Unfortunately, some folks think the other two R's stand for tax rebates and Republican Party politics.
Going all Patsy Cline
Back in 2010, the school board declared literacy its No. 1 priority.
What took them so long?
It was only a perfect storm of events that led the board to commit itself: Post and Courier reporter Diette Courrege wrote a series of articles that highlighted the shameful number of kids unable to read at grade level in Charleston; Superintendent Nancy McGinley pushed to fix it; and then-board member Gregg Meyers used the poor publicity to persuade his colleagues.
After a couple of years, the reading academies are doing so well, McGinley this year proposed adding $1.9 million to expand the program to more students. But Moffly and Kandrac said the district doesn't need to grow its budget. Period.
Why? Well, basically so no one has to pay an extra couple of bucks a month in taxes.
Meyers, unfortunately, was not too surprised by this turn of events. He spent a number of years on the board, so he knows what lunacy sometimes springs from 75 Calhoun.
“They are entitled to do that,” Meyers said Tuesday. “If they have the nerve to argue to people that reading is not the most important thing they do, they can. I think it's crazy, but they can do it.”
Yes, crazy is what it is.
Why do schools fail?
Everybody likes to gripe that the schools don't work.
It's a convenient excuse to justify whining about paying school taxes.
Truth is, part of the reason schools don't work is because, for far too long, a huge percentage of kids has shown up for high school reading at a fourth-grade level. And when that happens, the state has the nerve to call the high schools “failing.”
Fact is, the district probably needs to devote more resources to the basics, and less to standardized testing.
The school board needs to realize that its job is to set policy that allows children to learn — not to pander to fringe political groups that wouldn't understand education if it hit 'em in the protest sign.
And if they don't want to do that, Meyers has the right idea.
Let them explain it to voters.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @BriHicks_PandC.