I highly endorse the Sumter School District's Board of Trustees' unanimous decision to ascertain if Sumter County Council members wholeheartedly support public education in Sumter County. Reference The Sumter Item's article, "School board to ask for all $1.2M from county," dated June 12, 2019.
The nine mills requested by the trustees is what the school district is entitled to under state law, SC Act 388. They are not willing to compromise for less; this is an appropriate decision. Board Chairman the Rev. Ralph Canty states, "It's not the board's intent to collide with council" but that in its opinion a "compromise is not in the best interest of the children or of the county."
For the past two years, county council voted against the millage requests from the trustees. The trustees think that if council turns them down on June 25, they will have to make additional budget cuts.
The questions are, "Do current council members believe that educating our children enhances economic development, and are students in our public schools entitled to the same quality of education students are receiving in private schools?" Sadly, county council no longer has four loyal Democrats who faithfully support public education.
Sumter School District ranks in the bottom 25% (61) of all school districts (82) in S.C. We have eight Title 1 (low-income) schools and six schools that have been identified as Priority (failing) schools by the S.C. Department of Education. Two of our elementary schools (R.E. Davis and Crosswell) are Title 1 and Priority schools. Currently, seven (44%) of our elementary schools require special assistance.
I commend BD (Becton Dickinson) and its employees for adopting Ebenezer Middle School and Thompson Construction Group for adopting Crosswell Elementary School; this is the community spirit necessary to move our school district from the bottom 25% to the top 25%. Everyone, elected officials, community leaders and citizens, can make a contribution. "As the twig is bent, the tree inclines." Our children are our future, and they must start out receiving the best education possible.
County council shouldn't refuse the school board's lawful millage request.
EUGENE R. BATEN
Sumter County Council, District 7
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