Embracing the "Corridor of Shame"
The case was filed in 1993, when I was still in high school. Abbeville County School District v. State of South Carolina, brought by 39 poor, rural, and more-than-average black school districts alleging that the state's antiquated school funding formula unfairly disadvantaged their students. After twenty-one years of successive governors and legislatures fighting the case--with taxpayer funds, of course--the state Supreme Court finally ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in 2014, finding that the General Assembly had failed in its constitutional duty to provide a "minimally adequate" education. After three years of the General Assembly throwing pocket change at poor districts without addressing the fundamental problem, this month a Supreme Court with new membership has terminated the case. It is a morally bankrupt decision that also appears to be legally indefensible, as this recent piece in the (Columbia) State, by a professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law, ably shows.
By asking for the General Assembly to be released from the Court's oversight, Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman of Florence and House Speaker Jay Lucas of Hartsville--one of whom lives in a plaintiff district and both of whom represent the infamous "Corridor of Shame"--and their supporters have unconscionably and inexplicably consigned thousands of our state's children to an educational ghetto and condemned our rural areas to destitution. They insist that it's the Legislature's job to provide for the schools without the Court's interference. Fine. They have had more than two decades to figure out how to fund education equitably and sustainably and have responded with pablum, half-measures, and denial. Forgive me for not holding my breath to see if they fulfill their responsibility now.
The only way I can make sense of this is that narrow partisan ideology--with no small tinge of racism--has won against constitutionalism, economic development, social responsibility, and common sense.
Rest assured that while the freak show in Washington captures the headlines, there is plenty of moral and political disintegration happening around the country at the state and local level. This is a prime example.
This is an issue that I hope to come back to frequently in the coming months.