Letters to the Editor: Take care of SC public education – Opinion – GoUpstate
Take care of SC public education
In a recent interview on Fox News, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos threatened that if our public schools do not open this fall, she would divert public funding away from public schools and into private school voucher programs. It is absurd that in the midst of this crisis our lawmakers want to force public schools to ignore public health orders or their own readiness … or risk having their funding siphoned away.
Our public schools educate 90% of our nation’s students – including 776,779 right here in South Carolina. Private school vouchers do not provide the same accountability to taxpayers as public schools, fund religious education and subsidize schools that often discriminate in who they educate.
In addition, many private schools have already received taxpayer-financed federal funding for COVID-19 relief through the Paycheck Protection Program. As the U.S. Senate negotiates the next round of stimulus money, Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, you must stand strong for public schools and oppose any efforts to exploit this pandemic to expand voucher programs. Now, more than ever, as teachers and staff are making incredible efforts to educate our children under extraordinary circumstances and, in some cases, putting their lives on the line for our students, South Carolina needs more funding for public education – not less.
– Rick Hahnenberg, Boiling Springs
McMaster’s SAFE grants move was wise
As I read the article, “Spartanburg Academic Movement, state education organizations condemn McMaster’s SAFE grants,” I thought it would be helpful for me to also share my perspective as a public school teacher.
SAFE Grants will help public schools, including mine, by preventing them from being flooded by students whose independent schools cannot stay open due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Considering that South Carolina public schools already have $10.38 billion in revenue this year and have received nearly $500 million in emergency stimulus funding (undoubtedly with more to come from the second coronavirus relief bill), Gov. McMaster was wise to invest $32 million of the discretionary Governors’ Emergency Education Relief (GEER) in SAFE Grants.
This small fraction of educational spending will ultimately save our public schools money. For less than half the cost of educating a student in a public school ($14,383), a SAFE grant (up to $6,500) will provide for a student and keep their independent school from closing. This is essential because if independent schools close (most are already projecting a decrease of 10-20%), their students will flood our public education system, where it will substantially increase our costs while making it even more difficult to maintain social distancing.
SAFE Grants will allow students to stay in the school they love or choose a school that better meets their needs. By keeping independent schools open, Governor McMaster has saved public schools money and prevented our classrooms from becoming overcrowded.
– Alison Heape, Greer
I want to thank the Herald-Journal for carrying the articles by Kirk Neely. I have known his fine reputation for many years but somehow was not in the habit of actively anticipating reading his essays until this time of the coronavirus.
I’m not sure what happened — either more time to read over the past many weeks or the fact that for several weeks it was harder to find the reports concerning the virus (and I appreciate that you have corrected that difficulty).
Now I find that when I can’t bear to read the rest, I look forward to his columns.
The one about lightning bugs was a delight, and I am saving that for our grandchildren. But the one about Independence Day is one I’d use in a classroom if I were still teaching, and it’s certainly one for my grandchildren. I read the entire article aloud to my husband on Sunday morning. In the midst of the tearing down of our country’s history, these facts deserve to be remembered and appreciated. South Carolina children are taught – or used to be – about our own heroes, but the bravery and sacrifices from the other colonies deserve, as Kirk Neely has done, to be told as well.
– Eva Pratt, Inman
Monuments, namesakes don’t teach history
Growing up to be a proud “Byrnes Rebel” was an expectation in my family. Changing the name or mascot never felt necessary to me. I have gone on to receive an undergraduate degree in History and I now teach middle school Social Studies. Monuments and namesakes do not teach history, they are about pride and what ideals we choose to honor as a society.
Anyone who can view the naming of James F. Byrnes High School as anything but a clear attempt to maintain the racial status quo of South Carolina in the 1950s is simply severely misinformed.
Byrnes High School was built in 1955, during a time in which integration was at the forefront of the nation’s imagination. Briggs v. Elliott (1952) was a precursor court case to the famous Brown v. Board of Education (1954) decision. The Briggs case was based in South Carolina and called into question the idea of “separate but equal” within the state.
James F. Byrnes was an avowed segregationist. While Byrnes was governor, South Carolina passed its first sales tax to fund school construction. The idea was to construct new black schools so that the idea of “separate but equal” could not be challenged in the courts. Leftover money was then spent to construct white schools.
Choosing to name this new, all-white school after Byrnes was a “thank you” note to the governor for working to prevent integration. If you are still not convinced, the simple fact that the mascot was chosen to be a Confederate soldier that carried a Rebel flag (this has since been changed to a more ambiguous “Rebels”) should confirm the intention behind the name.
I believe our monuments and namesakes should reflect the true ideals of our nation and state. And as a Social Studies teacher, I would be remiss if I did not point out that it is not as if there is a lack of non-problematic people throughout our history. It is time to rename Byrnes High School to something that can make everyone proud.
– Ridge Welch, Woodruff
Creating a safer society
The governor of South Carolina, Henry McMaster, has so far declined to issue a state mandate requiring the wearing of facial masks in public because he says it is not “enforceable.”
Is any law truly enforceable for all people all of the time? Of course not. The question is whether it is in the public interest to have such a mandate or not. Would we be better off with such a mandate in terms of slowing the spread of Covid-19? Of course. The personal inconvenience of wearing one for the good of our fellow citizens is a small price to pay for a safer health environment for all.
Ticketing people without masks in public would soon cause others to wear one to avoid a financial penalty. Ticketing everyone without a mask is impossible. Even with a mandate, some will not wear one. Do you observe the speed limit because all who do not get tickets? Speed limits help create a safer society. So would a face mask requirement.
– Doug Hubbell, Spartanburg
It’s time to open schools
I believe that every citizen should be asking why our schools are not planning to be opened with classroom learning.
Last year, when the COVID-19 outbreak began, there was much that was not known. Data models were paraded about as “science.” The outrageous projections of those models lead to the closing of schools and businesses throughout this nation. Based on incorrect assumptions our leaders made choices that have never been made before. With an absence of malice, it can be said the models were wrong and the purveyors of these models were wrong. I would think that everyone would agree that these early decisions were made in good faith and, while based on invalid information, were meant to protect public health.
Here we are seven months later and fear, ignorance about Covid-19 and faulty modeling should be a thing of the past. We have the data to make reasonable decisions based on real data concerning infection rates, at-risk groups, co-morbidity factors, etc. It would seem that the data is clear that school children have very little to fear from Covid-19.
The director of the CDC stated this week that he would send his grandchildren to school this fall without hesitation. He didn’t qualify his remarks with mask or social distancing requirements. He stands behind the re-opening of public schools, I suppose, based on what the data shows. As the director of the CDC who, aside from Donald Trump, thinks they know better what is good for school age children.
Teachers are the very ones who should base their decisions on sound reasoning. They should be the first to recognize the unsound practice of distance learning as a permanent strategy. If schools are going to do what is best for students open the doors and fill the seats.
– Chip Rivers, Roebuck
Issue a statewide mask mandate
Now that our president has finally endorsed the use of masks, how many more South Carolinians will die before Gov. Henry McMaster will issue a mandate to use the best weapon we have against the virus?
Please issue a statewide mandate that people must wear masks indoors and out in all public places. Summon your courage – put the life and health of your citizens ahead of politics. Do what’s right.
I am a retired SC health department worker, and now the sewer of almost 300 facemasks (all given away free where needed), and the leader of a church sewing circle that has sewn over 2,400 masks here in Spartanburg. I sew because your life is worth my time – please act because our lives are worth your effort.
– Alice K. Sutton, Spartanburg
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