Columbia businessman and Education Oversight Committee member Larry Wilson testified Friday that South Carolina's future is utterly dependent on how well it educates its children. Wilson, the chairman of The Trelys Funds, a venture capital firm and former CEO of Policy Management Systems Corp., Orangeburg 3 Superintendent David Longshore and state Sen. John Land all took the stand during the week of Jan. 5-9 in the case that seeks to change the way South Carolina funds education.
"Education is to South Carolina what oil is to Saudi Arabia," Wilson said in testimony Thursday, during the trial's eighth week.
Wilson recounted his experiences working with Marion 3 School District beginning in 1998. Wilson and about 300 of his PMSC employees began volunteering in the district, trying to improve one of the poorest districts in the state.
While they were able to see some progress during the three years PMSC assisted Marion 3, Wilson said he ultimately came to the realization that change needed to be effected at higher levels if students in poor districts were to ever catch up with peers in better areas.
Sen. Land, D-Manning, testified Monday that South Carolina’s simplistic approach to funding schools makes it difficult for some of the state's poorest students to get a decent education.
"As long as we have that one-size-fits-all... we're not going to fit an education program to the children," Land said. "That's why the children in these districts are being left behind."
When discussing the reasons for the students' failure in school, Dr. Longshore stressed issues related to teacher quality. Efforts to improve teacher effectiveness are hampered by a lack of time and money, he said.
"Staff development is sort of the lifeblood that keeps teachers in a position to be effective," he said.
The trial will continue next week, with Jo Ann Anderson, director of the Education Oversight Committee, Baron Holmes of the State Budget and Control Board and educators from school districts Orangeburg 3 and Dillon 2 scheduled to testify.