State Representative, colleagues to submit letter to Governor calling for Richland County School District 1 audit

Published: Oct. 30, 2023 at 7:24 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A parent started a petition calling for a financial forensic audit of Richland County School District One (R1).

So far, the petition has gained 600 signatures with a goal of a thousand.

The petition comes just days after Richland School District One leaders re-assigned 11 teachers midway through the school year.

The move sparked a rally and a heated exchange between district leaders and parents during a packed board meeting last week.

The parent behind the petition is Joshua Parks. He has two kids that attend schools within R1.

He said this call goes far beyond the teacher reassignments and the driving factor of this petition is data from the state report card issued by the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee (EOC).

According to the latest report card released from the EOC, R1 spent 52.7% of its budget on student instruction. That’s down from the 54.6% the district spent in the previous academic school year.

Taking a look at Richland School District Two (R2), that district spent 68.3% on instruction, which is an increase to what the district spent in the previous school year.

“When you take that number which is concerning in itself and compare it to outcomes we’re lagging behind (R2) in every area,” said R1 parent, Joshua Parks.

Parks is referring to the overall student performance in subjects like reading and math.

That data coming again from the state report cards.

It shows in Richland One, 44% of students met or exceeded requirements in reading writing, while in Richland Two has a little over 55% of students met or exceeded requirements.

In math, 29.6% met or exceeded the requirements in Richland One while 39.4% of students in Richland Two met or exceeded the requirements.

“We’re 10 percent double digits more than 10 percent behind, reading, math, science and social studies, and so looking at where we’re spending our money just what we do know is very concerning,” Parks said.

Parks’ petition has received 600 signatures and he’s hoping to get to 1,000 to show he’s not the only parent calling for transparency in R1.

“The goal is to really dig into the numbers to figure out where our tax dollars are going,” Parks said. “To ensure that we’re using our money to ensure that the kids are really getting the best instruction.”

“I think that’s one of our biggest questions. We’re one of the most well funded district’s in the state. Yet only 52 percent of that budget makes it into the classroom,” said State Representative Heather Bauer, (D)-75.

State Representative Heather Bauer said for her the recent and abrupt teacher reassignments were an opportunity to push for more transparency in the district.

“That’s how you make change. I heard from 300 plus people that showed up to the rally and the board meeting people are tired of it,” Bauer said. “So, this is just another example of the failing of the district.”

WIS reached out to the office of the state’s inspector general about the likelihood of this petition being enough to prompt an audit.

His office pointed us to state code 1-6-35 which states the state’s inspector general may only initiate, supervise, or coordinate an investigation into a school district at the request of the governor, the State Superintendent of Education or the majority of the membership of the legislative delegation of the county and that request must be submitted in writing.

Representative Bauer said she and her colleagues are working on submitting a letter to the governor to request an audit by the inspector general.

There’s no timeline yet on when that letter will be submitted.

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