State lawmakers to debate consolidating school districts

TIMMONSVILLE, SC (WBTW) – Lawmakers head back to Columbia Tuesday for the start of the 2017 legislative session. Up for debate–how to fix struggling public schools.

One Pee Dee representative thinks it’s time to look at changing the way districts are divided statewide.

“I think we’re doing an injustice not only to our students, but to our economy as well,” admitted Rep. Terry Alexander, D-Florence.

He said many times districts like Florence Four in Timmonsville don’t get the support they need, and that can hurt more than students.

“All of the monies and all of the industry goes where there is a good public school system,” Alexander said.

Florence School District Four was taken over by the state Board of Education last year after decades of poor performance and low graduation rates. Now, Rep. Alexander has filed a bill to form a committee that will study the possible cost and feasibility of consolidating school districts, meaning Timmonsville schools and the four other Florence districts would become part of a larger county school district.

“I think we need to look at it from a statewide perspective,” Alexander explained. “See what we can do to make sure all of our students have the same opportunity as every other student has.”

Alexander’s bill proposes a two-year study before any possible changes are made.

“When we do a study of these county by county, then we can come up with I think a better resolve than just saying ‘make every county have one school district,'” Alexander said.

That’s exactly what another bill–filed by Horry County Representative Heather Ammons-Crawford–seeks to do. Crawford’s bill would require all counties have no more than one school district by 2019, but Alexander thinks that plan is a little hasty.

“It’s not as easy as folks saying ‘ok let’s just put them all together,'” he explained. “Even if that bill passes, you’re still going to have to do some studying.”

Rep. Alexander said no matter which plan wins out, it’s time to take a hard look at public education in South Carolina.

“Why not?” he asked. “Let’s take a look and see what’s happening, where we are missing the boat.”

Rep. Alexander said both bills will be up for debate once things get going in Columbia in the next few weeks. He also promised to keep pushing hard for some type of change to help South Carolina students.