School board members are “watchdogs” for students and taxpayers

School board members are “watchdogs” for students and taxpayers
July 13 22:26 2016 Print This Article

Perhaps the most significant elected officials in our area are members of the Charleston County School Board.  They oversee a $429 million annual budget, nearly twice the amount spent by the City of Charleston or Charleston County.   They also oversee a massive capital improvement plan for building and renovating schools.

School board members represent four areas of Charleston County but are elected but voters countywide.  Three represent the West Ashley region, which extends from James Island to Edisto, three represent the North area, two represent East Cooper (Mt. Pleasant to McClellanville) and one represents Downtown.

The Charleston County School District  (CCSD) spends 27% more than Greenville County while serving nearly 30,000 fewer students.  Educational achievement  in the CCSD has been abysmal.  By the end of third grade, only 16% of African-American students and 59% of white students are reading at or above grade level.

One of the problems I have perceived with recent  school boards is that most members have been “rubber stamps” who go along with the recommendations of the Superintendent without questioning how the money is being spent or analyzing the poor results and coming up with a plan for improvement.

School Board member Todd Garrett, who represents the Downtown region,  has emerged as a whistleblower who is willing to address the CCSD’s shortcomings.  He has spoken out against lax budget practices which led to an $18 million shortfall in the 2014-5 fiscal year.  He recommends turning over failing schools to private foundations.  Meeting Street Academy serves mostly low income minority students downtown and has produced excellent student achievement.  The school receives the average per pupil spending from CCSD and is managed independently.

Typically, school board elections receive no media coverage.  Lowcountry Watchdog will scrutinize the candidates after the July 15 filing deadline and keep you informed.  There is too much at stake to ignore the school board races!