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South Carolina Department of Education

South Carolina Department of Education 

South Carolina Department of Education (SDE) is the state board of education department. It is located in Columbia in the Rutledge Building. The department is governed by a politically appointed Superintendent of Education, presently Molly Spearman. The SDE also serves as the agency that coordinates testing and educational policy for the entire state. Most recently, SDE decided to end its contract with the School Reform Association of South Carolina (SRCAS) effective July 1st.

In 2021, SRCAS brought a suit against the Department of Education charging that the SDE had in essence been guilty of practising inconsistent policy with regard to school reform initiatives. This suit accused the Department of Education of violating the state constitutional provision requiring the separation of powers. Among other things, the suit charged that the SDE had failed to provide notice that its schools had been placed under a specific category of schools that were required to undergo state-mandated busing policies under a new school reform initiative. Further, the suit stated that the Department of Education had failed to abide by a plan provided by the General Assembly that would guarantee the regular attendance of all children across the State of South Carolina regardless of the cause of their departure from school.

Most school reform initiatives have been met with resistance from tea party organizations and political pundits. Yet, this case is quite different. The current school crisis began with the poor performance of the school system in the days prior to the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). This legislation is designed to make drastic changes to the way our nation's schools function.

Opponents of the reforms argue that this is the wrong approach for education. Rather than focusing on making our schools more rigid and ineffective, this approach makes our schools more inefficient overall. Furthermore, proponents of the NCLB argue that we must continue to rely on the No Child Left Behind reforms until we fix our country's failing school system. Proponents of the reform remain firm in their belief that this is the best possible solution for fixing our troubled public schools.

The State Board of Education has also been accused of operating as an exclusively political entity rather than a business. This allegation is unfounded, and the State Board has taken steps to ensure that political influences do not sway its decision-making process. In addition to these steps, the State Board has taken certain actions to ensure that its meetings are open and free of interference from outside sources. In addition to its meetings being open to the public, the State Board has decided to make these meetings available to the media.

As was detailed in the complaint filed against the State Board, the current chairperson of the Board was involved in political campaign activities during the time she served on the bench. In addition to serving as a judge during the last two terms on the court, she also was the president of a local political party. More importantly, according to the complaint, she failed to disclose her connection to this political action to the State Board when she was considered for a position in that office. The State Board has determined that the former chairwoman deliberately violated the State's Conflicts of Interest Policy by concealing her political ties to the political party she was serving on.

These facts are what led attorney John Whitaker to file a complaint on behalf of the parents of one of our county's students, as well as to convene a class-action suit against the State Board of Education. According to the complaint, the State Board intentionally tried to stave off the lawsuit by placing conditions on the release of the records. These conditions included a request that the complainants release the information through a waiver of confidentiality. The State Board further instructed the complainants to refrain from taking any further action, including discussing the case with anyone other than their attorneys. All of these conditions were cited as being clearly designed to prevent any review of the case.

Once the case was sealed, we were informed by the complaint that the State Board was engaging in a campaign to "smuggle" the complaint into an obscure area of the court system. The State Board did not inform the complainants that their suit would be sealed and they were not even told that they could discuss the case with an outside party. In other words, the State Board effectively said to the parents that if they want to pursue their lawsuit, they must stop talking to us. We believe that this is wrong and intend to appeal the court's denial of the initial filing of the complaint. In the meantime, it is important to note that the complaint was filed under the appropriate statutes for the State of Florida and was filed in the appropriate court. The complaint should have been filed with the County Court for the County of Seminole, which had jurisdiction over the matter.

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