School Districts 1 and 3 to consolidate services with other districts
by Laura Stone | September 3, 2018 11:53 am
Within the 2018-2019 South Carolina budget proposed by the General Assembly to the Governor, a proviso was included which would require school districts with less than 1,500 students to combine administrative services with nearby districts. As the proviso was not vetoed by the Governor, the proviso is enforceable by the South Carolina Department of Education.
Provisos last one year and must be renewed annually, not becoming law unless they are converted into a bill which gets passed. Under this proviso, administrative services such as transportation supervisor, lunchroom administration and some human resource services would be handled by a larger district, freeing up a portion of funding. This funding could be used to create more student opportunities within small, financially struggling districts.
“It comes down to dollars and cents,” said Senator Kevin Johnson. “It also comes down to academics. We have some school districts that are small and rural and poor, and they can’t afford to offer some of the courses that larger districts can offer. This means some students in those districts are at a disadvantage, because things such as art or music aren’t offered. If we can share some of the resources, it benefits the schools because it may offer access to some of those subjects.”
As the proviso is aimed at districts with less than 1,500 students, both District 1, which has 764 students, and District 3, which has 1,266 students, are on the short list of 13 districts which must comply with the proviso. Each of these districts has 30 days to create a services consolidation plan and present it to the South Carolina Department of Education. If a district does not create a plan, the South Carolina Superintendent of Education will create a plan for the district. Should the district not follow the plan, the district could risk losing some of its state funding.
“I hope the districts affected will get together and come up with a plan to share services with nearby districts, so they can be in better financial shape,” said Johnson. “If they do it within the 30-day window, they will get to have input into the process.” According to him, the districts would remain autonomous in other aspects, but administrative services would be shared.
“Some districts may see this as a first step toward full consolidation, and it may be, but right now it’s just sharing administrative services,” said Johnson. “Sharing those services with a larger district would be less expensive than providing it by themselves.”
According to Johnson, these shared services are not limited by county lines. A district may choose to share services with a district in another county, should they be closer and find it more convenient or beneficial to share with another county.
“I’ll be glad when the day comes in South Carolina when education will be more equal, but right now, wherever you live decides the quality of education you get,” said Johnson. “Hopefully this will level the playing field at least some.”
The Clarendon County District 3 Superintendent stated she was not yet ready to make a statement on the issue, and the Clarendon County District 1 Superintendent could not be reached for comment at this time.