For nearly two months, political types have predicted that lawmakers will finally tackle South Carolina's education problems when the General Assembly convenes next week.

Well, that's just crazy talk.

No, they won't.

This conventional wisdom popped up in November, when the state Supreme Court ruled that South Carolina has violated its constitutional duty to provide a "minimally adequate education" to many students in the state. The plaintiffs - a handful of poor, rural school districts - called it a landmark ruling in a 21-year legal battle.

So the stage was set. But last week, Gov. Nikki Haley and legislative leaders filed separate motions asking the Supremes to reconsider the decision.

Haley, as usual, made it all about her - claiming the court hadn't taken into account her latest education initiatives. House and Senate lawyers argued in one breath that the court didn't have jurisdiction to tell them what to do, and in the other complained the court wasn't specific enough in telling them what to do.

Both the governor and the Legislature argued that throwing more money at this problem won't fix it - and then bragged about all the money they've thrown at the problem.

They're right, though. It will take more than money to fix this.

And, honestly, state leaders aren't kicking this can down the road because they don't particularly want to fix it.

They simply don't know how.

It's hard to get 170 people to agree on a lunch break, much less anything important.

That's why so few important things ever get done at the Statehouse.

But lawmakers have tried to do some things to address the disparity in these districts. In 2006, the Legislature started a pre-kindergarten program specifically for students in these poor rural districts.

The logic behind it was sound, the intentions good. Poor students often show up at school unprepared to learn, and that puts them behind from the start. You have to reach them earlier. Otherwise, no teaching, or teacher, can overcome their disadvantages.

There was some evidence the program was helping, but then the state didn't put enough money into it - most districts had waiting lists. And, as the Supreme Court pointed out, the state cut the program's funding by about $550 per student shortly after it was started.

The court also accused the state of pushing too much of the transportation costs onto poor districts in its funding shell games. These districts have only so many buses, and schools, and sometimes kids end up riding for two hours before they reach a classroom. That doesn't help.

Of course, part of the problem is having so many school districts. When you have two or more districts in one little county, you are duplicating administrative costs that could go into special education, or buses, or anything other than another bureaucrat.

Allendale, for instance, has a school district for 1,250 kids.

That's roughly a third of the student population at Wando High.

The Legislature could remedy some of that by limiting counties to one district per county. But they won't do that, because it's way too political.

And, of course, the reason all these districts were set up in the first place was to segregate kids.

This is really all about poverty, not race.

The thing that distinguishes all of these under-performing districts is that the majority of their students are poor.

But poverty disproportionately affects African-Americans in South Carolina, and that's why the Supreme Court quoted Judge Waties Waring - the architect of school desegregation - in its ruling.

Waring once wrote, "education does not alone consist of fine buildings, class room furniture and appliances but that included in education must be all the intangibles that come into play."

And that ultimately is why the Legislature doesn't know how to fix this - it is the intangibles. The state can't build its way out of this, or simply hire more teachers, or even pay them more (although that should happen anyway).

So the Legislature is frustrated and is unlikely to tackle this 800-pound gorilla. They know the real problem is rampant poverty in South Carolina.

"There are no silver bullets," the House and Senate court filing argues, "good achievement for students living in poverty cannot be legislated."

No, there are no guarantees, and it's frustrating. But lawmakers have to keep trying.

That's their job.

Reach Brian Hicks at