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Letter to the Editor: Are smaller school districts more conducive for students?


Dear Editor,

I am honored to serve as Chairman of District 45 and I am writing this letter on behalf of our board.

Recently a town hall meeting was held in Blackville by Senator Brad Hutto and Representative Lonnie Hosey. It was advertised as a gathering to discuss building a kindergarten through eighth grade school to be shared by Williston and Blackville. Instead, we were disappointed to learn that the meeting was used to promote countywide consolidation of our school districts. Unfortunately, because the meeting was not advertised as a forum for countywide consolidation, the citizens of District 45 were not represented and unable to voice our concerns.

Consolidation seems to be a convenient talking point for our legislators as they look for a way to remedy the difficult issues facing public education today. Instead of addressing these issues and finding solutions, they think they can throw smaller schools together and somehow, they will magically improve. The South Carolina Education Oversight Committee contracted Dr. Harry Miley to do a study on consolidation for South Carolina in 2003. This is the most recent study done and he concluded, “For South Carolina high schools, smaller school districts are more conducive to student achievement for schools containing low socioeconomic students.” Why? Because rural districts have pride and a love for their schools. Our schools are the heart and souls of our communities and this should not be forfeited to appease lawmakers.

Years ago, when consolidation was being pushed, the proponents stated that consolidation would save money. That mantra is no longer heard as consolidation has proved to be more expensive. In fact, when Orangeburg consolidated, the county had to petition the state legislature to allow them to increase their millage rate higher than what state law allows in a single year. It was needed to pay for the cost overruns due to consolidation. Sumter County also faced dire financial problems after they consolidated. The State Department of Education had to take over Sumter’s financial department due to their fiscal issues after merging.

When schools consolidate, towns suffer. They seem to lose their identity. Community participation in school activities decreases. In a time when we need more support, why should we do anything to compromise our identity and lose the source of what unites us? There is a reason we say, “Once a Warhorse, always a Warhorse!”

Rosey Anderson,

Barnwell School District 45 Board Chair