How Much is Enough for Charleston?
The Voice is going to go out on a limb and suggest that being an "institution of literacy" should be the default setting for any school, but this doesn't seem to be taken for granted in Charleston County School District. In fact, Superintendent Nancy McGinley is asking taxpayers to pour $9.1 million into the already well-funded system to bolster literacy in schools. That's right. More money so that schools can complete one of their most basic functions.
Superintendent McGinley is absolutely right that she has a literacy problem on her hands, and absolutely wrong that more money is the solution. This push started a few years ago, when The Post and Courier ran a series of articles detailing how 20% of the district's 9th graders read on a 4th grade level or worse. In true education bureaucrat fashion, the powers that be in Charleston decided that a costly new series of programs were the ideal solution, not re-directing current funding and rethinking the entire approach to instruction (which obviously wasn't working). It's no wonder The Schott Foundation singled out Charleston as one of the "ten worst large school districts in the nation for graduating black male students."
Here is where we strongly disagree with Superintendent McGinley: the district hasn't been underperforming for lack of funding. In 2011-2012, Charleston School District had about 43,000 students, and received $3,326 in state funding per student, $1,169 in federal funding, and $9,283 in local funding. That's $13,778 per student! Multiply that out by the number of students, and you're talking about a budget of about $592, 454,000. More than half a billion dollars is still a lot of money, right?
If a school district is receiving over half a billion dollars in funding, and can't teach students to read, then we think it's fair to say that money probably isn't the problem. Does anyone really believe that tacking on another one percent to the existing budget is the only thing lacking in getting the district on the right track?
It will never end. More money won't fix the district's achievement problems, and yet administrators will continue to ask for more and more to accomplish even basic educational goals. Charleston taxpayers may as well liquidate their assets, and head over drop them off at district headquarters. District administrators will be asking for that soon enough. It's all "for the kids," right?