by guest, Preston Baines, Lexington
You know, sometimes it really feels like it is time to give it all up.
The week started off with something that I knew would probably happen. The Lexington-Richland District Five school board majority voted for a budget that increases the millage—or property tax rate—by 8.1. This board majority has a knack for raising taxes, as they did last year.
Also on the District Five front, Administrative Law Judge Carolyn C. Matthews ruled in favor of the district and against Kim Murphy’s legal appeal on the construction at Chapin High School. The district has strayed far away from the plan that they sold the public in the 2008 bond-referendum that passed.
Special interests beat parents’, teachers’, students’ interests in Lexington-Richland District Five
Kim Murphy’s plan didn’t cancel the plans for construction but it did offer alternative plans that would save taxpayer dollars and create a plan that doesn’t disturb wetlands. Aside from the actual facts of the case, the personal attacks are the most disturbing thing.
Not only were Murphy’s children intimidated throughout this case by students and even support staff at Chapin, District Five schools also announced the court decision over the intercom while Murphy’s children were at Chapin High, and the badmouthing resumed. In addition, the district used the taxpayers automated call system to send out a phone message declaring victory over Kim Murphy.
Let’s focus on school board trustee Ellen Baumgardner. When first elected in 2004, Baumgardner spent her first few years on the board as the most fiscally conservative member, all the while she was looking out for the best interest of the students.
Turn the page to 2008. Baumgardner gets an agreement to add the building of the CATE center—the district’s Career and Technical Education Center, which is planned for 2012—into the proposed bond referendum. Apparently in exchange for the CATE center being added to the referendum, Baumgardner decided that she must support every piece of the reckless agenda of Robert Gantt, Beth Hutchison-Watson and Ed White. Baumgardner culminated her 180-degree flip by voting for the new budget and millage increase.
It’s time that citizens of District Five fight back against the constant intimidation, deception and flat-out fiscal irresponsibility shown by this majority. Let’s make sure your voice is heard loud and clear.
All-Republican Lexington County Council says tax-and-spend away!
What else happened during the week? The all-Republican Lexington County Council decided to spend $3.7 million more than they had appropriated. What was the solution? Property tax increases.
While supporters would say that the tax hike is a slight increase, what happens when Lexington County’s school boards increase taxes annually and the county council and municipal governments also increase taxes regularly? Eventually, not only do these free-spending governments run out of money, but the people struggling in this economy do also.
Contact your council members and let them know that you care. If they don’t hear from you, then they assume they are speaking for you. I guarantee you their constituents in this economy are not supportive of higher taxes of any kind.
House members choose status quo again, don’t put kids first
To cap off the week, our state legislators let parents and children down once again. By a vote of 60-59, the state House tabled the school choice bill that expanded options for parents to send their children to a school of their choice.
Not only does the bill give parents the option of giving their child the best learning opportunity for their skill set, but it also saves taxpayer dollars. Currently, $11,700 is spent per-pupil in S.C., with costs nearing $18,000 in some districts.
To my knowledge other educational options don’t cost families anywhere near those kinds of dollars. Lexington County and parts of Richland County may have some of the best schools, but look at the rest of our state and see what direction they are going.
There are several reasons S.C. continues to be at the bottom in education, and sticking with the status quo is the number one reason.
I am happy to say that most of the entire Republican House delegations of Lexington and Richland voted in favor of school choice. Representatives Joan Brady, R-Columbia, and Marion Frye, R-Leesville, did not. We must tell them that is unacceptable. Also, senators John Courson, R-Columbia, and Jake Knotts, R-West Columbia, are very opposed to educational freedom*.
In addition, several Upstate legislators opposed the bill. Rep. Rita Allison, R-Spartanburg, told everybody she supported school choice for several years and she changed her vote on the floor. We must tell them that this is unacceptable and that we will hold them accountable.
As you can see, it has been a whirlwind, disappointing week, but there’s still time. It’s time for us to step up and not give up. Stay involved and support the right causes with all your heart. Your voice matters.
Courson and Knotts are two senators who have voted against school choice measures in the past.