Reading & Literacy

Needy Students, Tech Disparities at Issue in S.C.

By Andrew Ujifusa — January 28, 2014 2 min read
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In a closely watched speech to state lawmakers in what is expected to be a heated election year, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said she plans to direct more resources to the state’s “neediest children” and to make a push to improve the technology in public schools.

In her Jan. 22 State of the State speech, the Republican governor cited National Assessment of Educational Progress data to illustrate the state’s relatively low ranking (42nd) when it comes to 4th graders’ ability to read at a “basic level.” She said that each elementary school in South Carolina will be offered a reading coach to ensure reading proficiency by the 3rd grade. Gov. Haley also said the state will spend more money on “summer reading camps” to ensure that students don’t regress when they’re not in school.

No Common-Core Mention

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley delivers her State of the State address to the joint session of the legislature on Wednesday, Jan. 22, at the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C. --Rainier Ehrhardt/AP

However, the governor, who is eligible for re-election this year, did not discuss in her speech one of the most controversial K-12 policies in the state, the Common Core State Standards.

In remarks to a local Republican Party club earlier this month, Gov. Haley pledged that the state would drop the controversial standards in English/language arts and mathematics. But she did not repeat the promise to her audience last week.

Some foes of the common core in South Carolina have expressed concern that the standards are a vehicle for greater federal intrusion into education in the state. A state Senate bill that would repeal the standards is under consideration.

Helping Poor Students

In her speech, Gov. Haley focused on the educational needs of less-wealthy students. She cited research that showed that teaching “low-income students” costs $1,200 more per student. The governor said school districts will receive 20 percent more in state funding for every enrolled student that falls below the “poverty index.” (The state education department uses an index that tracks data regarding free and reduced-price lunch and Medicaid eligibility in schools.)

“We looked at the way we fund education at the state level,” Gov. Haley said. “We found our formula to be outdated and misguided, and that as a result we are not doing the best job of directing dollars to the areas that need them most.”

Gov. Haley also cited the dearth of technology in many of South Carolina’s public schools, saying that schools’ access to iPads and widescreen TVs was “based on geography, not on generational advancement,” which she called “wrong” and “immoral.” She pledged to increase the state’s investment to improve school Internet access and provide more computers and tablets.

Several of her plans, Gov. Haley stressed, were developed after meeting with a variety of officials, such as former state superintendents and a bipartisan group of legislators, as well as teachers and parents. Regarding teachers specifically, she said that past debates had “damaged their confidence” and that in the future teachers would require greater support and training, but Gov. Haley didn’t outline proposals on that front.

Watch the Full Address

A version of this article appeared in the January 29, 2014 edition of Education Week as Needy Students, Tech Disparities at Issue in S.C.

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