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SC Supreme Court Defines a “Reasonable Time” for Fixing Funding Formula as “NEVER”

November 25, 2017

Earlier this week Charleston SC Post and Courier’s Seanna Adcox wrote about the South Carolina Supreme Court’s decision to abandon it’s time table for the legislature in that state to fix the funding formula. As she reported in the article, in 2014 the Court determined that the funding formula adopted in 1977 and amended on several occasions since then was unfair to poor rural schools. In their decision they gave legislators an undefined “reasonable time” to come up with a plan, indicating that the plan didn’t have to include more overall spending. Unfortunately for the students who attend those schools, the legislature did not respond to this decision and they made it clear to the court that they had no intention to do so. Even more unfortunately for these students, the South Carolina Supreme Court justices are elected… and between 2014 and now, the members of the court have changed and, as a result, a new decision was rendered:

The South Carolina Supreme Court has closed a nearly quarter-century long fight for adequate education funding, three years after ordering state legislators to improve opportunities for poor, rural children.

The 3-2 decision releases lawmakers from the high court’s oversight, ending their requirement to overhaul the system with more than 766,000 students.

“I’m afraid this issue has now been put on the back-burner,” said Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, a 25-year veteran of the Legislature. “Without the pressure of the court, I don’t see the General Assembly doing anything.” 

The effort is now entirely up “to the very body that hasn’t done much about it for 24 years other than talk and study,” she said. “It is beyond disappointing — it’s disgusting.”

This is not the first time a Supreme Court decision has been ignored. It has been sixty years— or five generations of students— since Brown v. Board of Education urged that schools be desegregated with all deliberate speed… and five generations later schools are as segregated as ever. If “all deliberate speed” is more than sixty years I suppose defining a “reasonable time” as “never” is at least honest. But one of the justices was dismayed at his colleagues unwillingness to keep pressure on the legislature:

Chief Justice Don Beatty, who wrote the dissenting opinion, said he’s encouraged that the newest House study panel recognizes funding formulas dating to 1977 have created an over-complicated, piecemeal system that needs a complete revamp. But he believes the court’s oversight should continue until legislators have completed their study and come up with a remedy.

Unfortunately, our court has lost the will to do even the minimal amount necessary to avoid becoming complicit actors in the deprivation of a minimally adequate education to South Carolina’s children,” Beatty wrote in his dissent.

So the Supreme Court has united with legislature and the Governor to deprive the children in rural SC schools from having an equal opportunity to gain a good education. This is not what a compassionate country looks like… but at least the taxes are low in South Carolina and the door is open to businesses.

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