November will mark a significant election for the Charleston County School Board. With the election of four new members, the board must immediately address the critical needs that face our students, parents, faculty, and staff. Such actions will determine what we want our public schools to look like and how much progress our students will make in the classroom. The new board will provide a fresh perspective that will give them a great opportunity to build anew. In that same vein, candidates should not be foolish enough to claim that they will be able to solve problems overnight or dismiss the progress the district has made.
For our teachers to prepare our students for global competition, the district superintendent and school board must have an inclusive agenda that focuses on putting every child in Charleston County on a level playing field that provides equal resources, exposure, and opportunity. With competing agendas, our tax dollars will continue to be spent on inmates and the building of prisons rather than on educating students and providing teachers and staff with competitive living wages.
Those who are running for school board must provide concrete answers that pertain to classroom instruction, education funding, innovation, and district operations. They must also inform voters on how they will approach creating, implementing, and enforcing policies that affect the well-being of our children. It is one thing to focus on your own child, but to broaden that focus to other children is something entirely different.
Because our children do not have political party affiliations and teachers are not interested in promoting politics when educating our children, school board candidates ought not to rely on their party's talking points to get elected. Those who actually study the pressing issues, provide solutions and recommendations, create dialogue, and work for the people who cannot vote for them — our children — are those who will be productive school board members.
Educators should lead the way in supporting candidates for office who support public education. Whether you agree with public education or not, the fact remains that every child does not attend a private school, nor does attending a public school mean that a child will be poorly educated. All of our public schools ought to be models and community-based facilities that can provide students with strong educational foundations that will enable them to reach their full potential both academically and socially.
South Carolina's public schools started this school year with $800 million less than they had two years ago. One cannot solely blame the nation's economic situation on this problem, nor can one solely find fault with one political party at the state level. Local and state leadership must consistently work on one educational agenda to fix an outdated tax system and a broken school-funding system for every child in this county and state to compete with their peers worldwide.
Despite widely held beliefs, this school district has made progress, and it has come as a result of a board and administration that works together. While more work is needed, the next board must be willing to step up and add value to this process and not place our children at risk. The number of schools in this district making adequate yearly progress (AYP) jumped from 21 last year to 50 this year. Compared to 49 percent statewide, 69 percent of our schools made AYP. The 2005-2010 building program brought 17 new or renovated schools to Charleston County, and this district continues to lead the state in the number of Palmetto Gold and Silver Award-winning schools.
The focus of improving high school performance, literacy, and the achievement gap cannot waiver. Teacher quality, literacy improvement, first rate learning facilities, and strategic partnerships are the proper centers of attention for continued improvement and success. With the wrong people at the table, the children who are being educated today will bring more harm than good to our communities when they become adults.