DENMARK, SC (WIS) - A bill that would transfer control of Denmark Technical College to a state board is causing deep concern among many who love the school in Bamberg County.
With no classes scheduled, the Denmark Technical College campus is usually quiet on Fridays. This Friday, however, people gathered in front of the school's Blatt Hall and were ready to raise their voices.
A bill from Orangeburg Senator Brad Hutto aims to break up the Denmark Technical College Area Commission and send control of the school to the State Board of Technical and Comprehensive Education. Hutto says the school is out of step with its core mission to educate students who will be attractive to the employers around them.
"I never looked at my education that I received from Denmark Tech being inferior to anybody else's education," Denmark Tech graduate James Bowden explained.
The group was made up of current and former elected leaders, alumni, and the chair of Denmark Tech's Area Commission, Thomas Watson. They slammed what they see as a legislative move that could terminate the school's nearly seven-decade history.
"And let me be clear. If you vote on a bill to turn Denmark Tech over to State Tech, in our opinion, that's saying we're closing Denmark Tech down," Watson said.
The school's defenders are worried about Hutto's bill. The senator has criticized Denmark Tech's dramatically lower enrollment, smaller numbers of graduates and what he says is the school's failure to provide employers with workers who have the kind of skills those companies need.
"If they closed it down where are these students going to go? It's like how you going to close the school down and just forget about the students?" Denmark Tech student Joshua Gadson asked. He went on to say he believes the school does a good job of teaching students.
School leaders say the financial condition at Denmark Tech is not an issue. They say even with a requirement to devote millions to a pension plan, Tech still has a couple million in the bank.
Supporters admit, however, some changes are needed to better coordinate offerings at the school with the needs of the private sector.