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Nikki Haley Calls for Education Equality Citing Bamberg Schools

6:55 PM, Jan 23, 2014   |    comments
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Bamberg County, SC (WLTX) -- Governor Nikki Haley put the spotlight on education during her State of the State address Wednesday night.

She spoke of the difference between wealthier school districts, like Lexington County where her daughter attends school, and Bamberg County where she grew up.

"I was born and raised in Bamberg and went to school in a brick box. We didn't know what we didn't have, but we always took care of each other. Now my daughter Rena attends the brand new River Bluff High School in Lexington, where every classroom has a 72-inch television and every child has an iPad. I wish I could say that was generational progress. But the thing is, it is progress based on geography, not on generational advancement," said Haley during her remarks.

Previous Coverage: Haley Calls for More Help for Poorer Schools

Earlier this year she announced her plans to improve education in South Carolina. The governor has proposed an additional 20 percent in state funding for every child that falls into the poverty index. She says the change could direct about $100 million dollars to our state's neediest children.

Bamberg-Ehrhardt Middle School Principal Troy Phillips acknowledges that throwing money at a problem is not always the way to fix it, but in the case of education and rural areas, he says it would help.

"Our students are gonna have to compete with other students who are technologically savvy and have been that way since elementary school. We're gonna be a little behind," said Phillips.
He says one of the biggest challenges he faces is the difference in funding his county receives when compared to other more wealthy school districts.

After a recent bond referendum, schools in Bamberg have seen construction and renovations for the first time in about 50 years. The improvements took some students out of schools with mold and mildew, and upgraded facilities built in the 1950s and 1930s.

"When you look at the haves and the have nots, you look at larger districts in other areas that have the iPads in the classrooms, we don't begrudge them that, just a little envious, but we do the best we can with what we have," said Phillips.

His school does have laptops that can be shared among classes, a computer lab and televisions in all the classrooms, but less than half have smart boards, something that comes standard in other schools, like iPads.

"We are a long, long, long way from, and a long way from the possibility of our students having their own individual iPads and things of that nature," said Phyllis Schwarting, Superintendent of Bamberg School District One.

Schwarting says a mil in Bamberg equals about $17,000. She says in other counties with more industry, it could amount to $1 million. She does not claim to know the solution for making education more equal for South Carolina students, but says the state should be striving for better.

"This is my 43rd year in the education system in this state and I haven't seen it happened yet. Governor Haley's plan sounds like a start, but it's a plan. It has to get through the legislature and I just don't have a lot of hope that that will happen," she said.

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