Letters to the Editor

Educational support essential

Now more than ever, while South Carolina's education standards are among the highest in the nation, pressures on our teachers are mounting, and our state's educators need encouragement from parents and community members, School Improvement Councils are providing such support.

Now more than ever, when education budgets have been slashed and schools need access to new, creative and nontraditional sources of time, talent and treasure, School Improvement Councils are providing such resources.

Now more than ever, when our children need to know the adults in their lives are actively committed to a positive school climate providing them the best possible education for successful futures, School Improvement Councils are sending this message.

School Improvement Councils are mandated by law to exist in each of the state's K-12 public schools. These community-based advisory groups are responsible for helping to develop their schools' five-year strategic plans and are charged with identifying needs and establishing goals to facilitate volunteer resources, parent and community involvement, and programmatic review essential to their schools' success.

Today the need for active citizen involvement in public education is greater than ever before.

Throughout the years, SICs have developed mentoring programs for students, sponsored educational and awareness events for parents, researched innovative learning opportunities for children, coordinated local community and business partnerships to support school programs, worked with school staff to implement new approaches to improve student literacy, advocated for more consistent and uniform local school funding, and tackled various issues to improve school climate. The list of local SIC ideas, initiatives and efforts is long, varied and distinguished and uniquely suited to the schools they serve.

Now more than ever, the 15,000 volunteer parents, community taxpayers, students and educators who serve on School Improvement Councils need specialized training, support, information, accountability and access to resources directly tailored to their needs. The S.C. School Improvement Council meets these needs for more than 1,100 local SICs.

Located in the University of South Carolina's College of Education, the S.C. School Improvement Council provides the continuous training, published materials, online resources, site visits, and other assistance needed to ensure the function and accountability of local SICs while building their capacity for success. SC-SIC partners with other state level agencies and organizations to champion the interests of parents and community members in the public education process and to ensure their voices are heard.

No entity in the state other than the S.C. School Improvement Council is specifically charged with ensuring that the public is included in local school governance.

In the past year, local SIC members statewide have contributed more than 240,000 volunteer hours on behalf of their schools - in meeting time alone - valued at nearly $3.9 million. With S.C. School Improvement Council's current budget allocation of less than a quarter of a million dollars, this represents a 15-fold return on our state's investment in its School Improvement Councils.

That's exciting budgetary news well worth continued support, particularly in these times of economic uncertainty.

Rutherford is vice chairwoman of the S.C. School Improvement Council Board of Trustees. Carr leads the Waccamaw Elementary SIC in the Georgetown County School District.