South Carolina's General Assembly has FINALLY taken some steps to follow the enlightenment received from the Abbeville school funding case verdict handed down Thursday, December 29, 2005 by Circuit Court Judge Thomas W. Cooper, Jr.
In May 2006, The Assembly created via Budget Proviso 1.75 the South Carolina Child Development Education Pilot Program. You can read the full details about it here.
Both the SC Department of Education and SC First Steps will oversee the program. SCDE will monitor the public school's implementation of the program while First Steps will look after the private and faith-based child development establishments. I'm glad that both will work together because leaving all regulation to the SC Education Department will overwhelm those poor people.
I agree with the program's service area, too. Only those states who actually sued the state in that December '05 case will receive service from this pilot program. If money is left over, then those other plantiffs (those who signed on as plantiffs after the first group decided to sue) will be served. No other states will receive services...at least not for the next school term. 16 million dollars has been allocated for this program. Leave those richer school districts like Lexington/Richland 5 out of this formula because they already have enough resources and lots of surrounding businesses from which to get more.
Not many details have surface, so I have some concerns that I hope to get answers to:
1. Does the appromately $3,100 dollars/per child amount compare with what is spent on pre-kindergarteners in school districts like Lexington/Richland 5 and Richland 1 and Richland Two? If it doesn't, then we're right back to where we started with inequity. Again, all students should get invested with the same amount of money per child regardless of the school district.
2. Why was money allocated for supplies, etc,...and not for transportation from the get-go? The program is suppose to serve those that fall well below the poverty line. Do they really think that most of these poor families can afford to keep insurance on a car to take a child to school?
3. Why didn't they put money into infant/toddler education rather than 4K? Early childhood eduation BEGINS AT BIRTH. If you can get a child on the right track through high quality infant/toddler caregiving, then the issues surfacing during preschool/preK will be significantly reduced.
4. Not so much of a concern but an exhoration: CALL YOUR LOCAL REP IF YOU LIVE IN THE SERVICEABLE AREAS! Please tell them about early childhood education, this Proviso, and how that money can best used. If you don't tell them, then they won't know. If you're not talking to them about how to use the money in your county, then you better believe that someone else is talking about how that money could best be used someplace else.
Let's keep watching this issue.