Courier Letters to the Editor 7-1-15

Time for legislators

to do their part

Dear Editor,

I applaud the Pickens County Council and Pickens County School Board for their hard work the last few years in these tough budget times. Now it is time for our state representatives to do their part.

County residents pay sales taxes to the state. By state law, 4.5 percent of the previous year’s state revenue is supposed to be given back to the county governments in what is called the local government Fund (LGF).

Even though county residents have diligently continued to pay all their state taxes, for years less than 4.5 percent has been given back. Since 2008, the shortfall to Pickens County has been $9.3 million. Given the county budget is only $54 million, this is straining county services like law enforcement, roads and the Public Service Commission.

The legislature, through its infrastructure bank, is instead sending the money to favored counties including Florence, Charleston and Greenville.

The Education Funding Act (EFA) is another state program the legislature is underfunding. By law the EFA program must give school districts $2,801 per student. The legislature is only funding $2,200. Again, we are paying our taxes, but not getting back what the law says. That’s an $8.8 million shortfall from the state to Pickens County schools.

Pickens County pays its fair share of state taxes. It is the responsibility of our state representatives to make sure we are treated fairly. Instead of trying to run the local school board, why don’t they fix this, which is sitting right in their lap?

Weldon Clark


A financial no-no

Dear Editor,

To save classroom teaching positions, the Pickens County School Board froze teacher pay in 2011 and 2012. With the building program behind us, the board made it a priority to make up those skipped pay raises over time.

While giving teachers three annual pay raises next year is admirable, it was reckless financially. As a result, I voted against the budget.

That third pay raise costs $1 million more a year and is funded with savings — that recurring expense is funded with one-time money. That’s a financial no-no, because for the first time in years, the next budget will start in deficit.

The administration said it will cut another 15 classroom teachers to plug that deficit. They’ve already cut 55 teaching positions in two years. So that will raise it to 70 teaching positions gone. How is that going to help the students? In a district where 25 percent of the students do not read at grade level, it won’t.

I do not see it as good public policy to eliminate teaching positions, put more children in the classroom and use the savings to give extra pay raises.

I would have accomplished the same thing, in a more responsible way. For this budget I would have given the regular teacher pay raise, plus one extra raise — solving half the problem. Then when extra TIF revenue comes in in 2017, I would have funded the second extra pay raise with that recurring revenue — solving the other half of the problem then.

Social Security recipients, workers in the private sector and many business owners went two, three and four years without pay raises, and no one is making up those pay raises. I think my pay-as-you-go plan for making up those lost pay raises for teachers still would have been generous. Plus it would have been the fiscally sound way to pay for that recurring expense, and no more teaching positions would have been eliminated.

Alex Saitta

School board trustee


Too much power?

Dear Editor,

The AdvancEd accrediting scare going on in the School District of Pickens County could and should have been avoided. It is past time for our state legislators to pass a law to give exclusive power to accredit our schools to the S.C. Department of Education. Power should be taken out of the hands of unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats at AdvancED. This group makes a profit off of the taxpayers for giving its seal of approval.

Too much power over our children’s education is being given to people who are not held accountable by the taxpayers. Unelected bureaucrats making decisions such as excessive national testing, Common Core standards and whether or not our schools get accredited should not be acceptable to we the people.

In 2011, AdvancED put Wake County, N.C., on an accreditation “warning” because Wake’s school board wasn’t following AdvancEd’s idea of what “best practices” should be. The N.C. legislators saw through their agenda and passed a law saying no college-bound student in the state would be rejected because of any lack of accreditation from AdvancED.

The laws in South Carolina are clear. All authority and responsibility is given to the SDPC board. If the voters don’t like our school board members’ actions, the solution is to vote them out.

AdvancED is composed of outsiders who want to control our local school boards. AdvancED created rules called “best practices.” Their best practices force our elected board to follow unaccountable and unelected superintendents’ and district administrators’ suggestions, and if the board resists, it is punished by losing its AdvancEd accreditation.

Why are Pickens County citizens allowing $21,000 a year to be paid to an outside special interest group to “micro-manage” what “they” think our elected local board should or should not be doing? We are paying unelected people who have their own politically correct agenda to make a profit and second-guess our elected officials? Is that “best practices?”

This is way too much power to be given to a company whose CEO also represents AdvancED as a lead business partner with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). This is the same CCSSO who brought us developmentally inappropriate Common Core standards.

It is time for South Carolina legislators to stop the monopoly AdvancED from having too much power over our children and our elected officials.

Johnnelle Raines