This is written by Jim Rex, the SC Superintendent of Education. Gotta
"Our state constitution’s language is not unique. At one time or another, 48 of the 50 state constitutions have included a requirement that required them to provide not good schools, just free ones. But some of those states – states who are our competitors for high-skilled and high-paying jobs – have decided to raise the bar for themselves.
Take Florida, whose constitution required “a uniform system of free public schools.” Ten years ago, Florida’s voters amended their state constitution to read this way: “The education of children is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida. It is, therefore, a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders. Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to
obtain a high quality education…”
Florida isn’t alone. Virginia and Illinois also set a new state requirement for “high-quality” schools, and Maryland decided to require that its schools be “thorough and efficient.” South Carolina schools, meanwhile, are required to be free and minimally adequate.Fortunately, we no longer have to be saddled with such a self-defeating standard. Senate bill 1136 proposes a constitutional amendment that would require a system of “high-quality” public schools. I think this proposal is worthy of a thorough discussion in the General Assembly.
Will a constitutional amendment solve the deep-seated problems of public education in South Carolina? Of course not. But significant improvements have been made and nationally recognized, and more improvements are on the way. In the meantime, South Carolina needs a constitutional standard that defines our goals and aspirations better than “minimally adequate.” And I believe voters should define that standard, not judges. In Florida, parents, taxpayers and business
people jumped at the chance to strengthen their state’s constitution.
Seventy-one percent of the voters in Florida’s 1998 constitutional
referendum approved the new language that made high-quality public schools a “paramount duty” of the state.
I believe South Carolinians would make just as strong a commitment. Our children deserve it, and our future demands it."