Category Archives: Poverty

Can this takeover of Allendale schools make the difference?

Allendale County schools are known for a number of things, none of which is excellence.

SC Supt. Molly Spearman

SC Supt. Molly Spearman

The dysfunction starts at the top. Back in the ’90s, a school board member was accused of pulling a knife on the board chairman during a budget discussion. He was later, it should be said, acquitted.

A while later, then-Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum took over the district for a time, and for a time, things got better. But what gains there were were lost in the decade since local folks resumed control.

Now, Molly Spearman is trying again. And she’s laying the blame for the schools’ failure squarely upon the local officials:

“Management decisions that put self-interests ahead of our students’ achievement are unacceptable, and I will not stand by while students get left behind because of decisions the adults are making,” she said.

She declined to give specifics, other than to say whenever a new principal or superintendent attempted to make changes, Allendale County’s board intervened, and that nepotism can be a problem in the county of fewer than 10,000 people. Officials should make decisions based on “what’s best for students, not their relatives,” Spearman said….

She’s not being specific, but what she’s implying sounds pretty disgusting. Nevertheless, the local officials seem unashamed of themselves, since they’re suing to stop the takeover.

It will be interesting to see on what grounds local officials argue they should maintain control, given their record.

Locally-run schools are a great thing, when a community has the capacity, commitment and integrity to run them. Apparently, Allendale has again shown that it does not. Under the principle of subsidiarity, things should be run by the smallest and most local entity with the competence to run them. In Allendale County, that would appear to be the state.

Here’s hoping that this time, progress sticks. But I wonder whether that’s even possible unless the state keeps control indefinitely.

Beasley advocates to save U.N. World Food Programme

Beasley the last time I saw him, at the signing ceremony for the legislation to take down the Confederate flag.

Beasley the last time I saw him, at the signing ceremony for the legislation to take down the Confederate flag.

Here’s an interesting thing brought to my attention this morning by a Tweet.

To backtrack a bit first, this is from Foreign Policy back in March:

Former South Carolina Gov. David Beasley will be sworn in next week as the executive director of the World Food Program, placing the first Trump administration appointee at the helm of a major U.N. relief agency at a time when the president seeks deep cuts in funding for humanitarian causes, three senior U.N.-based diplomats told Foreign Policy.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres is gambling that the appointment of Beasley — who has no experience running a major international relief operation, or with the United Nations — will help dissuade the administration from cutting a large portion of the more than $2 billion it contributes each year on the agency to help fight hunger around the world.

In making his case for the new job, according to U.N. advocates he reached out to, Beasley has highlighted his Christian faith, and an extensive network of lawmakers around the world. Most important, perhaps, are his personal relationships with a trio of powerful South Carolina politicians who hold the U.N.’s financial fate in their hands: Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.; Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C.), who chairs the appropriations subcommittee that oversees U.N. funding; and former congressman Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget chief, who has targeted the U.N. for some of the steepest cuts in the federal budget….

I didn’t realize Beasley was all that close to any of those three — the only one whose political career overlaps at all with his is Graham, and I find it very hard to imagine that the former Democrat is major buds with Mulvaney — but perhaps he is.

In any case, this Tweet this morning shows Beasley at least trying to realize the U.N.’s hopes:

This will be interesting to watch…

Legislative hearing on the school equity decision

I got this advisory yesterday from Bud Ferillo, who made the influential “Corridor of Shame” documentary, in case you don’t know him otherwise:

Advisory Notice
See attached official notice for the initial meeting of the new legislative committee that will consider remedies for the Abbeville v. State of South Carolina rural schools funding case.
It will be held in Room 100, ground floor of the Blatt House Office Building, at 1:00pm next Monday, February, 23, 2015.
Former U. S. Secretary of Education and South Carolina’s first two-term Governor, Richard W. Riley, a partner in the Nelson Mullins law firm which represented the plaintiff districts prop bono publico, will be the lead off speaker. See the attached Agenda for other speakers and committee business.
PLease share with others. Come early for a seat. Enter through the center door facing the Gressette Senate Office Building. All other entrances are locked.

 

Let’s ask the question: Does SC need SC State?

Or to ask it another way, does the state of South Carolina need to keep propping up an institution that has become a money sinkhole, and is not delivering on its mission, with a 13.7 percent four-year graduation rate?

This is a question, of course, that has hovered out there since USC and other formerly white institutions were integrated: Given that other state institutions are open to all, do we need a separate college that formerly existed just for folks who couldn’t get in elsewhere?

And when we ask that, we hear various arguments for why an institution like SC State — or such private colleges as Benedict — have a greater affinity for, and understand better how to educate, a portion of the population that still lacks the advantages and support systems that middle-class whites take for granted. That such historically black institutions are better at meeting such students where they are, and lifting them to where they want to be.

And perhaps that is the case.

But at some point, we need to look at whether that job of lifting up the disadvantaged is getting done, and how much we are spending on dubious returns.

Note:

Struggling S.C. State University wants an added $13.7 million from House budget writers to pay off a $6 million state loan and improve operations at the college, which has one of the worst graduation rates in the state.

The Orangeburg college must get out “from under this cloud” to improve its graduation rate, S.C. State president Thomas Elzey said after he made the school’s budget presentation Wednesday to S.C. House members.

“The negative kind of statements about the quality of this university and the value of this university (need) to be taken off the table because we are valuable, and we do offer quality,” Elzey said.

However, legislators focused on S.C. State’s financial and academic woes.

S.C. State’s enrollment has fallen 20 percent recently but the school failed to cut its budget to match lost tuition payments. As a result, the state’s only historically black public university owes vendors $10 million in unpaid bills. To reduce costs, cuts have been made to staff and are being considered for athletics, the school’s president said.

The school wants its state taxpayer money doubled – to nearly $27 million in the fiscal year that starts July 1, including money to pay off the state loan – from $13 million this year.

That request does not include any money to pay back a $12 million state loan – to be issued over three years – that the Joint Bond Review Committee approved in December….

I added the bold-faced emphasis in those two places.

An institution that in recent months and years has only been in the news for financial and leadership failures wants its appropriation doubled to get out “from under this cloud?” And then what? What are the realistic prospects going forward? What do we really expect in terms of improvement and reduced need for state infusions of money?

When the bond review committee gave the school that $12 million “loan” in December, Gov. Haley said they “gave it away because they know it can’t be paid back.” And I’m not seeing any indications that she was wrong to say that.

So… where are we going with this? Where can we realistically expect to be in five years if the state keeps funneling in the money?

And at what point is it not worth it anymore?

Even hometown Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter says “we’re going to have to exercise some tough love” with SC State. But how much more love of any kind is it worth investing?

These are very tough questions that everyone involved is hesitant to articulate. Maybe these questions don’t occur to anyone, but that would surprise me.

There may be a million — or 27 million (wait; 39 million counting money to pay back the loan) — reasons why I’m wrong (and heartless and insensitive) to raise such questions. I hope there are. I want to hear them.

But I thought I’d play the part of the little kid in the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, if only to see if y’all can come up with those great answers for me. I want to be embarrassed for having asked such silly questions.

But I ask them because it seems that we’re just stumbling along from crisis to crisis here. And I think it’s useful to step back, and ask where we’re going, and whether we want to go there, and whether what we’re doing is getting us there…

Speaker appears ready to get to work on improving rural schools

This came over the transom this afternoon:

Speaker Lucas Reacts to Supreme Court’s Denial for Abbeville Rehearing

Releases names of the five plaintiff participants in the education task force

(Columbia, SC) – House Speaker Jay Lucas (District 65-Hartsville) announced the five representatives who will participate in the House Education Policy Review and Reform Task Force. These individuals were selected by the plaintiffs’ attorneys in the Abbeville v. StateSupreme Court case and their names were provided to the Speaker’s office on Friday.

The House and Senate asked for a rehearing in November after the Supreme Court issued its decision on the twenty-one year old case.  Speaker Lucas, a representative from the Pee Dee, submitted the request primarily because the Court did not provide enough clarity on how to proceed in its ruling.

“Today’s Supreme Count announcement further confirms the dire need for comprehensive education reform,” Speaker Jay Lucas stated. “In light of the Court’s decision to deny a rehearing, I am hopeful that the House Education Task Force will immediately begin its work to develop a robust strategy that ensures every child is given access to the best possible education in every part of our state. These five representatives from the Abbeville v. State case will provide significant insight and help create standards that put our state back on a path towards excellence.”

Representatives from Abbeville County School Districts v. the State of South Carolina

            Wanda L. Andrews, Ed. D.

Superintendent, Lee County School District

Former Assistant Superintendent, Spartanburg County School District 7

Former Deputy Superintendent, Sumter County School District 2

 

            David Longshore, Jr., Ph.D.

Former Superintendent and current consultant, Orangeburg County Consolidated District 3

Former Member, State Board of Education

Former President, South Carolina Association of School Administrators (SCASA)

Former President, SCASA Superintendent’s Division

Former Consultant, Educational Testing Service

Former Member, Board of Visitors, MUSC

 

            Terry K. Peterson, Ph.D.

Senior Fellow, College of Charleston

Education Advisor, C.S. Mott Foundation

Former Chief Counselor to U.S. Secretary of Education, Secretary Riley

Former Education Director, Office of Governor Riley

 

            Rick Reames

Executive Director, Pee Dee Education Center

Former Deputy Superintendent, Florence County School District 1

 

            John Tindal

Superintendent, Clarendon County School District 2

Former Chair, State Board of Education

Former President, South Carolina Association of School Administrators (SCASA)

            Former President, SCASA Superintendent’s Division

Seems like the speaker has a fairly healthy attitude on the subject, in that he’s ready to get to work on the problem. Or says so, anyway.

Steve Morrison, a man of great intellect, passion for justice

Steve Morrison during his campaign for mayor, 2010.

Steve Morrison during his campaign for mayor, 2010.

The news being reported by The State today is a terrible shock:

A prominent Columbia attorney who fought for equity in the state’s public education system and left his mark on the community through extensive service to organizations championing the arts, education and South Carolina’s disadvantaged, has died.

Stephen “Steve” Morrison, 64, a partner with Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough in Columbia, became ill and passed away unexpectedly sometime between Saturday night and early Sunday morning, said Jim Lehman, the firm’s managing partner.

Morrison was in New York attending a board meeting when he passed away….

This is a great loss for this community, and for South Carolina.

Steve may be best remembered for leading the legal team that fought in court for two decades to try to get the state to bring poor, rural schools up to par, so that the quality of education a child received wouldn’t be so dependent on the accident of where he or she happened to be born.

I never saw him in court during that lengthy case, but I heard him give presentations on the critical issues involved in speeches to community groups. He was always deeply impressive — not only for the intellectual force of his arguments, but for the passion and commitment that he exuded.

He exhibited these qualities in everything he did. And he did a lot.

By the way, here’s a footnote I wrote in 2010 about my own relationship with Steve:

Finally, a disclaimer — aside from the fact that Steve Morrison and I served together on the Urban League board, he has quite recently served as my attorney. Not a big deal, but I thought you should know. Aside from that, having known him for years, I’ve heard him give quite a few quietly compelling speeches, and asked him why he didn’t run for office. He always shrugged it off — until now.

I wrote that in the context of covering his candidacy for mayor. But back to Steve…

The bottom line is, the cause of justice for all in South Carolina has been set back.

NYT: In SC, Obamacare fails to help the poorest, thanks to Haley, Legislature

Meant to share this sad piece from The New York Times earlier in the week:

A sweeping national effort to extend health coverage to millions of Americans will leave out two-thirds of the poor blacks and single mothers and more than half of the low-wage workers who do not have insurance, the very kinds of people that the program was intended to help, according to an analysis of census data by The New York Times.

Because they live in states largely controlled by Republicans that have declined to participate in a vast expansion of Medicaid, the medical insurance program for the poor, they are among the eight million Americans who are impoverished, uninsured and ineligible for help. The federal government will pay for the expansion through 2016 and no less than 90 percent of costs in later years.

Those excluded will be stranded without insurance, stuck between people with slightly higher incomes who will qualify for federal subsidies on the new health exchanges that went live this week, and those who are poor enough to qualify for Medicaid in its current form, which has income ceilings as low as $11 a day in some states….

Yep, they’re talking about us, as one of the states who have refused Medicaid expansion.

Doug will point out we’re one of the slight majority of states (26) that have insanely refused to participate.

But even if we were one of 49 states, we’d still be profoundly wrong.

An appeal from Harvest Hope Food Bank

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Denise Holland over at Harvest Hope sent this out, and I pass it on:

There are hungry families in your neighborhood, around the corner

From you or on the very street where you live.

 

With Your Help We Can Lift Them Out of Hunger

 

Thousands of hungry people live right here among us. You pass by them every day. They are grandmothers and grandfathers, children and families. They are hardworking men and women.

 

Harvest Hope Food Bank has a 33 year history of lifting struggling families and individuals out of their hunger and helping restore balance to their lives. When they face their empty tables and ask us for help, we make sure to give them 90 to 100 pounds of food. We have found that with that help they only come to us three times, and then they are lifted out of hunger and they do not need to come for help again.

 

We strive to provide hunger relief across 20 counties through our own Emergency Food Pantries and through partnerships with more than 400 agencies. They carry our mission from our own neighborhoods to the remotest corners of South Carolina where hunger and poverty exist for thousands. Our efforts bring hunger relief to more than 42,000 people every week.

 

Our food is often enough to take their worries away, to give them enough resources to overcome their circumstances.

 

To reach them all we have to have resources to send our trucks to get food from community partners, and then take and give food to the areas where food is needed the most.

 

To many the holidays seem two months away but for Harvest Hope holiday need preparation is right now.  Please help us prepare with a gift today.  Your gift will help us gather loads of food from across the country. That food is often donated and FREE, but the transportation is not.

 

In addition, we need sponsors of backpacks for children.  A $30 gift will provide 29 meals on the weekends.  We have children waiting and wanting – can you help?

 

Another great gift is your gift of time.  Volunteers are needed both for groups and for counselors in our own Emergency Food Pantries.  We have many ways to be involved and we need YOU – the gifts you bring, the love you share, the smiles you give.   Click HERE to learn more about volunteering.

 

Your gifts – right now – give us the resources to keep us going to help lift others out of their time of crisis and hunger. Harvest Hope dedicates 98¢ out of every dollar donated to our mission of feeding struggling families, children, seniors and our very neighbors.  Giving is easy. Visit us at www.harvesthope.org to help us help our neighbors.

 

Our blessings and deepest thanks for your generosity and kindness,

 

Denise Holland

I still think food stamps shouldn’t pay for junk food

So I’m glad to see SC moving forward with this initiative, or at least taking a half-step in that direction:

After hearing all the pros and cons during several months of public input, the state health department has recommended that South Carolina apply for a waiver to ban the use of food stamps for sugary drinks, candy, cookies and cakes.

The SC Department of Health and Environmental Control stated its position in a letter sent Monday from director Catherine Templeton to Lillian Koller, director of the state Department of Social Services. Koller’s department administers the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, and will determine the content of a waiver request…

I have great respect for Sue Berkowitz and other advocates for the poor who have concerns about this. And the “food deserts” concern is a real problem.

But I just can’t see the taxpayers subsidizing purchases that are killing people instead of nourishing them. As Ms. Templeton says, we’re able to make WIC work with restrictions; why not this?

I heartily disagree with Mia on food stamps and junk food

Here’s the latest from Mia McLeod:

 Dear Governor,


Seriously? Can you just “SNAP” and in an instant, delete certain foods from some South Carolinians’ grocery lists?

Sure, obesity is a genuine, significant health concern for too many people in this state. But that’s not why you’ve made a recent “SNAP” decision. You know it. We know it. And soon, citizens across this state will know it too.
Contrary to South Carolina’s definition, “SNAP” doesn’t mean “Simply Nonchalant About the Poor.” It’s actually a federal program, fully funded by the USDA. Now, isn’t it ironic that our state’s most notorious critics of “BIG” government, are arrogantly hypocritical enough to assume the despicable role of “BIG Brother” when it’s politically expedient?Mia leopard jacket

As asinine as this latest stunt is, it’s even more offensive. Targeting a segment of the population in furtherance of your own political agenda is one thing. Refusing to allow federally-funded healthcare for hard-working South Carolinians while in the same breath, expressing concern about obesity and its impact on their health and well-being, is another.

You don’t want the federal government telling us whether to accept or how to spend our federal tax dollars when a state match or financial investment is required. But yet, you wanna dictate which foods we can buy with SNAP, a fully-funded federal program that doesn’t even require state funds?

The list of qualifying items that can be purchased with SNAP is very straight-forward. As with any program, there’s always room for improvement. But last time we checked, you were able to make nutritional decisions for your family without our intrusion or input. We’re just wondering why you think we need yours.

And since your cronies are traveling the state at our expense, trying to convince us that this is about obesity prevention, perhaps we’ll remember your “heartfelt” concern on our next nonemergency trip to the ER…if we can even find and get to a hospital that’s still open and accessible.

With all due respect, Governor, when it comes to obesity, it’s not the foods that we’re able to buy on SNAP that are making us fat. Perhaps it’s your empty rhetoric that’s making us sick.

If you really cared about this state’s obesity rates or us, you’d do what is well within your purview and power to ensure that we have access to quality, affordable health care, just like you do.

You’d realize that some of us would love to eat the same fresh and organic foods that your family enjoys, but because of “food deserts” across this state, many of us are without the means or access. If you’re genuinely concerned about addressing obesity, you could start by addressing that.

If only we could “SNAP” back from the regressive, debilitating tactics of centuries past, we’d all feel much better. So while South Carolina continues to reek of ignorance, intolerance and insanity, many of our best and brightest continue to leave this state in search of parity, inclusion and meaningful opportunities.

But unlike obesity and other chronic conditions, many never return. Neighboring states too often become the benefactors of our most creative minds and talented contributors. And we’re left with a weaker South Carolina.

So as you continue to cater to your political base by serving folks like us up on a party platter, the only thing that seems to be getting fatter is your reelection campaign account.

At some point, obesity may no longer be an issue for South Carolina. Under your “leadership,” our state is gradually becoming so malnourished on so many levels, it may not be strong enough to “SNAP” out of it.

But you still can, Governor, before it’s too late.

p.s. – South Carolina’s forgotten citizens (a.k.a. – your “other” constituents) may not be members of the Tea Party. But in number, we’re “the real majority.”

She really doesn’t like the idea, does she?

Well, I do. Still. So I guess I’m playing the “despicable role of Big Brother.”

Yes, there are reasons to be concerned about people who live in “food deserts.” I don’t dismiss that, and I can’t say for certain that the stores that now sell junk food in those communities would shift and sell healthier stuff if that’s all their poor patrons could buy. I think that might happen, but I don’t have the full faith in markets that some do.

So that should be thoroughly studied and taken into account before a final decision is made. But I most certainly do not agree with those who have a philosophical, rather than practical, objection to insisting that tax money not be used to buy foods that ruin the health of the poor.

The populists will call this patriarchal, but we are indeed in a position for taking responsibility for people when we undertake to feed them. We are culpable for providing people with the means of poisoning themselves when we could adopt a policy that prevents it.

When we discussed this previously, my old friend and respected colleague Burl Burlingame noted, “when the government wants to experiment, they do so first on the poor.” That may seem a particularly devastating argument against this change. But I submit that we have been running the experiment for half a century now, and the results are in: Paying for junk food kills poor people. It’s time we stop it, and do what we practically can to have a positive, rather than an actively negative, effect on people’s health.