Our imperial state superintendent of education strikes again. Molly Spearman has taken over two more school districts, stripping the duly elected school boards of their power, and placing herself as the super-school board, leaving the residents of those districts without representation as taxpayers. This is un-American.
She is now the super-school board authorizer, judge, juror and prosecutor. Again black citizens have been stripped of their constitutional right to select their own representatives. It is the responsibility of the residents of those districts to vote the trustees out during a regular election, and vote new board members in if they are dissatisfied with the performance of their school board members.
Elected officials should be removed only if they are incapacitated or charged with a felony or some other grievous crime; otherwise they should retain their power of representation. The General Assembly should not allow, facilitate and promote taxation without representation. I predict that students in these districts will be no better off academically, and the districts no better off financially, under Spearman’s authority.
As a Republican, I am disappointed in my party’s violation of home-rule, local representation. And the Democrats’ support of the public education system as it exists befuddles me.
When Spearman worked for state Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum as her point person during the first takeover of the Allendale public schools, she failed. There was no significant increase in student achievement, but there was a substantial amount of money put into hiring consultants and traditional educators to work in Allendale.
Superintendent Spearman is doing now what she did during the first state takeover, hiring her handpicked district superintendents and paying them enormous salaries (while complaining about finances) along with other high-paid personnel loyal to her.
Meanwhile, the General Assembly has declared that the state has remedied its problem of undereducating students from rural districts that are primarily black. Isn’t it ironic that after the dismissal of the Abbeville case, Superintendent Spearman is accelerating the pace at which she is taking over school districts that have been under-resourced historically. In fact, two of the eight districts stripped of representation are the poorest and were involved in filing the Abbeville Case: Allendale and Florence 4.
These districts exist for the most part in the “Corridor of Shame,” a geographic area that is a vivid and disgraceful legacy of our state’s ugly racial history. Nonetheless, many schools throughout the state with majority black student populations have found their way onto the priority schools list for poor academic performance.
Spearman continues to scapegoat trustees, parents, administrators, teachers and students for what is happening in these districts in order to strip their elected trustees of power.
Spearman calls for small districts and small schools to be absorbed by larger schools and districts. Charleston County School District serves as our best example, where majority-black Lincoln High was closed down and absorbed into Wando High. The black students at Wando, in many cases, were doing worse academically than the black students at Lincoln.
Where is the South Carolina School Boards Association with providing capacity training for those districts’ boards of trustees? How many more school districts will the state superintendent of education take over, stripping the duly elected school board members of their power of representation and appointing herself as the super-school board? How much longer will the General Assembly allow, facilitate and promote taxation without representation?
Dr. Gary L. Burgess is secretary of the Anderson County Board of Education.