PAMPLICO, SC (WBTW) – A South Carolina Senate committee will discuss a bill Wednesday that could force smaller districts to consolidate.
Senate Bill 36 requires school districts to have 2,500 students or more to receive state funding.
Since Florence school district two enrollees a little over 1,100 students. Superintendent Neal Vincent says the district would feel the changes.
“There could be a loss of identity. Currently, decisions are made here locally. So you would possibly lose the local control that we have,” said Vincent. “We do a great job in our opinion with the resources provided. We are good stewards of the resources. If we were to consolidate with a larger system we may not be able to provide some of the services we do now.”
Vincent says while some of the positives of consolidation include an increase in state funding, he says the negatives outweigh the positives.
“Some of the smaller districts outperform some of the larger districts. When you look at test scores and graduation rates, is there a true benefit to taking the smaller districts that are performing well? That is also doing well financially and putting them in a larger system,” he asked. “Will you give the same attention in the rural areas that you are currently getting?”
The SC Revenue and Fiscal Affairs office estimates the state could save $127,242,227 by combining 18 smaller school districts.
In our area this includes:
Florence 2 in Pamplico – 1,124
Florence 4 Timmonsville – 628
Florence 5 Johnsonville- 1,190
Dillon 3 Latta – 1,589
State Senator Tom Young Jr, Republican of District 24 in Aiken County says the Abbeville case revealed smaller districts show a trend of overspending for administration.
“That’s money that can be used to fund school resource officers in 141 schools that currently do not have some SROs. That money can be used to go to a 1% or 2% pay raise for school teachers. That is also money that can go to school buses. There are about 200 school buses that will still be on the roads later this year after the latest set of buses that are replaced,” said Young.
Vincent says his district would not see much of the savings, after looking at a study completed by the Department of Education.
“Our hope is students are always taken care of. The students are at the center of any decisions that are made. We can look at fiscal savings but are we taking care of the students. Are we doing our job with the students who are zoned for us,” said Vincent.
State Superintendent Molly Spearman proposed changes to the bill.
Spearman’s proposed amendments include:
1. Average daily membership of the district is less than 1,500 or the district experiences a high rate of declining enrollment over a set number of years (specifics still being discussed)
2. If the school district contains a school with an accreditation status of probation or denied,
3. If the school district is currently under state designation of Fiscal Caution or Warning pursuant to 59-20-90,
4. If a district has a risk assessment of medium or high or has a school or schools that have been in improvement status for three years.
The Senate Education Committee is scheduled to review the bill Wednesday morning.