3. The State Board's "rules have the force and effect of law."
The Legislature's constitutional authority with respect to the public schools is much more limited than that of the State Board, namely: to "provide, by general law, for a thorough and efficient system of free schools" (here, the key word is "system"), and not for a "thorough and efficient education," as some would have the public to believe. Art. XII, §1, State Constitution could not be more plainly written in that regard.
The State Constitution does not authorize the Legislature to operate the free schools; nor does it empower the Legislature to determine the educational policies for them.
It is time to be frank: Even if the Executive and the Legislature had the authority to determine the educational policies of the public schools of the State, they simply are not sufficiently informed and motivated to undertake a much-needed bold and comprehensive review and reformation of the State's public school system, as the experience of many past years evidences.
Because of limited knowledge or a vested interest, these policy makers, and some of our citizens, are too protective of, and attached to, the State's antiquated Prussian-originated, rigid and compartmentalized student-learning model to do more than "patch" it here and there and then proclaim their accomplishments in having worked together.
In my view, an additional essential element or condition for improving and sustaining student achievement in our public schools is to have an informed and involved citizenry throughout the State, who will become an active and aggressive citizen constituency for a nationally-recognized quality school system.
We have no citizen constituency now and policy makers have shown no interest in developing one. Its absence was notable during the Legislature's recent consideration of public-school education bills and during the public forums on the Education Audit.
I have the notion that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bright, largely youthful citizens scattered throughout every county and metropolitan area of the State who would welcome an opportunity to become involved both politically and otherwise in improving the State's public school system so that our kids' academic achievement, for themselves, for their parents, and for the State, can be lifted from bottom rankings on national and international assessments.
If our citizens are not, or cannot be, enlisted in this endeavor, I have little hope that the output of our public schools in terms of measured student performance will be other than mediocre or below.
McElwee is a Charleston lawyer with the firm Robinson & McElwee PLLC.