Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Student Photos Depict Crumbling School Facilities in Rural South Carolina

Student Photos Depict Crumbling School Facilities in Rural South Carolina

"It affects us to the point where you can see the depression," Monisha Brown explained a she toured a reporter through a photo exhibit of school facilities in rural South Carolina. The photos vividly illustrate unsafe and inappropriate conditions: exposed wiring, bathrooms with overflowing plumbing, crumbling bricks and rotting wood, and a host of makeshift efforts to keep out the rain.

Brown, a senior at Estill High School in Hampton District 2, was one of 250 rural South Carolina students who took photographs of their schools for the exhibit, which is designed to raise support to improve the state finance formula for rural districts. Dozens of the students were on hand for the exhibit opening and a rally at the statehouse in Columbia. They wore T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase, "But What About Us?" and talked with reporters, legislators, and others about their experiences in school.

The photo exhibit opened at the capitol in May and will tour the state this summer. It is part of an ongoing effort by Education First, a coalition of churches and civics groups, to bring attention to conditions in rural schools and raise pressure in the state to address them.

The group takes issue with a recent ruling in South Carolina's long-running school finance lawsuit in which Judge Thomas Cooper found that school facilities and other programs in plaintiff districts were "minimally adequate" and therefore met the state's low constitutional standard. Judge Cooper ruled, however, that the state was failing to provide adequate early learning opportunities for the poorest children.

Deplorable facilities in some schools are just one result of South Carolina's rural school funding crisis. Heating and cooling systems don't work in many buildings. Libraries in some districts are making do with books dating to the 19th century. And many districts struggle to find and keep teachers. One rural district saw a complete turnover of its teaching staff in a recent four-year period.

This article is from the Rural Policy Matters newsletter from our friends at the Rural School and Community Trust -

post a question or comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.


  • At 12:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    even though i hate No Child Left Behind, this is an example of why standards should not be relaxed for rural schools - rural kids, all kids, deserve to go to school in a decent building with good teachers, good nutrition and the materials they need to learn

  • At 8:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Exactly... Many of the goals of NCLB are laudable and worthy. While 100% proficiency in all testing areas is an unreachable goal, and testing itself is often of dubious value, one of the great features of NLCB is that it breaks out testing data by race, ethnicity, disability, etc in a way that was not done before. This allows the people who truly care about schools to highlight many of the structural disparities in funding, infrastructure, etc. To a certain extent, it exposes the deficiencies within schools that previous testing regimes starkly illustrated between schools, which is invaluable in the fight for better rural (and inner-city) schools. That said, the desire for quantification has gone way overboard and the "teaching to the test" phenomenon in many schools is ridiculous.

  • At 9:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I agree, and exposing the structural disparities in rural schools should not be used as an excuse to create exceptions for those rural schools. I know that smaller schools struggle to meet some of the requirements of NCLB because budgets are always tight. But exempting rural schools, or lowering standards for rural schools only shifts the burden of paying for better education in rural schools from Congress, state legislatures and schools boards onto the kids. There is no excuse for doing that, it should not be allowed.

  • At 10:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    my daughter attends a rural school, i don't want her school to be held to a lesser standard than urban schools. I think the legislature and local school board should provide the funding necessary to give her and her classmates the education they deserve. And I think the federal government should pay for the costs that increase due to No Child Left Behind. I pay my taxes gladly with just that idea in mind. She deserves to go to an excellent school, not one with crumbling buildings and outdated text books - and I think her school is excellent. So, please, don't treat rural schools like we cannot take care of ourselves. We have the best schools in the country and we want to live up to the same standards everyone else is supposed to live up to, and we probably have a better chance of doing it.

  • At 10:08 AM, Anonymous said…

    Thank you for the post, pretty helpful info.


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