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.
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.