You do not know me, but I know you. I’ve watched your press conferences from my couch amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. I’ve read through your new policies and plans to better our South Carolina economy. I’ve even followed your re-election campaign, watching you insert the Republican party’s principles in thick, red block letters above your head in commercials. One thing I have not watched, read, or followed is how you, in any way shape or form, attempted to better our state’s public education system.
Let us be honest. The future of our state is not solely making middle-aged white men or large corporations like BMW and Michelin wealthier. The future of South Carolina really is our students. We have bright, young minds ready to be cultivated into something that can make an impact on not just our state but our country. Students like me and unlike me have so much potential to make our state great on so many frontiers. You have argued in the past that South Carolina’s education problems will improve when we “create more jobs” and “make our economy stronger.” What you haven’t thought through is who will fill the positions you so single-mindedly helped to create. Not our under-prepared high school graduates. According to the 2018 Condition of College & Career Readiness Report, only 42 percent of South Carolina high school graduates are college-ready in English, while other subject percentages are even lower. Your future South Carolina citizens will not be qualified to fill these jobs, causing corporations to outsource workers. Even though this is making South Carolina economically stable, our citizens are literally left to do the dirty work.
A cycle of poverty is running ragged throughout our poorest communities. The children born into these households are told they live in “The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave” – the phrase is imbedded into their DNA – but are they really free? They are not free to go to a quality grade school, attend the college they desire, or progress in the job they have been dreaming about since playing in their backyards – simply because of the poor area they were born in. They are stuck in a crumbling school district with a governor and legislators who don’t even recognize the existence of their entire community. Improving South Carolina’s public education system will not only improve the lives of underprivileged students and families, it will improve every aspect of future South Carolina.
By implementing new reforms that direct sales tax from things like prisons and new projects to boost our economy, you can focus hundreds of millions of dollars toward the school systems in our state. With extra funding, underfunded schools will be able to update their buildings to make them safer learning environments for students. We will also be able to boost teacher salaries in our state to combat the teacher shortage hurting low income areas. Every student deserves a teacher who loves their students as much as their profession, and an increase in pay would help college students direct their paths toward education.
You, Governor McMaster, have the power to start the beginning of real change. You have the power to give the poor, African American girl in Allendale something to look forward to. You have the power to make the underprivileged Hispanic boy in North Charleston feel like he is valued by valuing the quality of his education. You have the power to pour resources into the school of the Florence foster child who has known seven different sets of parents. Governor McMaster, you are not the governor of the South Carolina economy. You are not the governor of the workforce. You are not the governor of the upper-class white man. You are the Governor of every South Carolina citizen. Citizens who are wealthy beyond measure and citizens who sleep below the underpasses on our interstates.
Governor McMaster, you are the governor of every race in our state, every ethnicity and every age group. It is time to stop hiding behind your promises of a flourishing economy and start acting to better our state by catering to each and every individual who calls South Carolina home. You do not know me or my generation. But I know us. I know that this time, we will not sit idly by as you ignore the cries of students all over our state. You want our state to succeed? You want our economy to succeed? It starts by allowing our students to succeed.
“Reports Show SC Graduates Not Prepared for Work or College.” Palmetto Promise Institute, 23 Oct. 2018, www.palmettopromise.org/reports-show-sc-graduates-not-prepared-for-work-or-college/.