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South Carolina Supreme Court: Many Students Do Not Receive Constitutionally Adequate Education

The South Carolina Supreme Court issued an order yesterday in Abbeville County Schools v. South Carolina, ruling that South Carolina does not provide plaintiffs’ school districts with a constitutionally adequate education.  The Court then ordered both sides to submit a plan to address the issues presented in the case.  ICS looks forward to this opportunity to improve outcomes for young children.

Brief Background

The case began in 1993, when a group of school districts and other plaintiffs sued the state over concerns about how we provide and fund education for many of our students.  The trial court initially ruled that there was no legal foundation for the lawsuit, but the South Carolina Supreme Court overturned that decision in 1999 and allowed the case to proceed to trial.

An extended trial followed, and the trial court dismissed many of the school systems’ claims.  The judge also ruled, however, that the lack of early-childhood education in less-wealthy districts was a serious concern.  In the words of the court:

The child born to poverty whose cognitive abilities have largely been  formed by the age of six in a setting largely devoid of printed word, the life blood of literacy, and other stabilizing influences necessary for normal development, is already behind, before he or she receives the first word of instruction in a formal educational setting. It is for this reason that early childhood intervention at the pre-kindergarten level and continuing through at least grade three is necessary to minimize, to the extent possible, the impact and the effect of poverty on the educational abilities and achievements of these children.

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First Steps Study Committee Testimony

Dr. Emily Carroll recently provided testimony to South Carolina’s First Steps Study Committee, highlighting a few governance options that have worked well in other states facing similar reform challenges.  We welcome further input and discussion, and are grateful to the many experts from across South Carolina and the United States who have already generously given their time and thoughtful input as we studied this issue.

From the testimony:

Moreover, ICS would like to make reform recommendations to this Study Committee based on models tested and proven in other states. It is with this in mind that the Institute seeks reform through a reorganization of those programs in state government currently addressing early childhood education and well being. These reform suggestions go beyond First Steps alone, but would obviously impact their operation and organization while falling within the confines of its early goals and mission of First Steps. Our recommendations would also impact various programs within the Department of Social Services, the Department of Education, and the Department of Health & Environmental Control. The Institute believes that the most effective reform would be to combine all early childhood programs into one, streamlined organization that avoids duplication, reduces bureaucracy, and is accountable for delivering the programs and services under its direction.

The full text of Dr. Carroll’s testimony is included below.

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ICS Submits Comments to Congressional Record for Hearing on Pay for Success and H.R. 4885

By Bryan Boroughs and Megan Golden

We have submitted comments, below, to the Congressional Record for the recent hearing about Pay for Success Financing and HR 4885.


Introduction

The Institute for Child Success is excited by the progress of discussions in Congress surrounding Pay for Success financing models (often called Social Impact Bonds). We thank Representatives Young and Delaney for their leadership in proposing H.R. 4885, and also thank Chairman Reichert for holding a Subcommittee hearing to discuss this topic on September 9, 2014.

The Institute for Child Success respectfully submits the following written comments to the hearing record for your consideration. In these comments, we begin with an overview of our perspective on the benefits of Pay for Success financing, and how these financing models can be particularly advantageous for programs serving our youngest children. We then discuss the substantial benefits of federal involvement, the reasons that legislation is necessary for meaningful federal engagement, and the ways in which H.R. 4885 responds to that need.

Like with any new and exciting innovations, we should also resist the temptation to treat Pay for Success financing as a cure for all ills. Indeed, many have voiced significant concerns – including one of the witnesses at the Subcommittee’s hearing on September 9, 2014. We too want to acknowledge the limitations of social impact bonds, and address how 4885 appropriately handles those limitations; we discuss several of these issues at the end of these comments.

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