In the three years since the S.C. Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature had to provide a decent education to all children, one justice wrote in this month’s final chapter of the quarter-century-old school adequacy case, “we have had the benefit of seeing the defendants make steady progress toward remedying their failure to provide our state’s children with a minimally adequate education.”
Particularly encouraging, he wrote, is the fact that the state has “recently come to realize that merely pouring more money into an outmoded system will not lead to success.”
Because the House is examining “the self-described ‘outdated,’ ‘overcomplicated,’ ‘burdensome,’ and ‘piecemeal’ approach to education policy and funding, I foresee a finish line to remedying the problems underlying this protracted litigation, one that will culminate in the fundamental reforms necessary for the defendants to meet their constitutional obligation to South Carolina students,” he continued. “I commend the House of Representatives on leading the other defendants toward a promising new approach to education in our state.”
Those were not the words that Justice John Kittredge used in declaring that from now on, the Legislature is free to either comply with the court’s 2014 decision or not, without the court’s “continuing jurisdiction” over Abbeville vs. South Carolina. They were the words that Chief Justice Don Beatty wrote in dissent in the 3-2 order, which he believed was premature since the Legislature hasn’t completed that examination.
Contrary to House Speaker Jay Lucas’ declaration that the order showed the court “is satisfied by the House’s transformative efforts to improve South Carolina’s education system,” the majority actually had nothing to say about how satisfied it was or was not with the Legislature’s efforts.