S.C. School Districts Short on Transparency

June 22, 2010

Investigative Reports

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The NerveThe majority of school districts in South Carolina received a grade of D or F for transparency, according to analysis done by Sunshine Review, a pro-transparency group.

As a group, South Carolina school districts earned a “D” for information available on their websites, Sunshine Review announced Monday.

The review found that although most school districts performed poorly, there were some bright spots: Pickens School District received an “A-minus,” grade, the only school district in South Carolina to do so; while Charleston and Greenville both received “B-minus” grades.

However, more than one-third of South Carolina’s 85 school districts failed Sunshine Review’s transparency checklist: Anderson 2, Barnwell 45, Calhoun, Clarendon 1, Clarendon 2, Clarendon 3, Dillon 1, Florence 2, Florence 5, Hampton 1, Hampton 2, Laurens 56, Lee, Marion 1, Marion 7, Marlboro, Mullins, Orangeburg 3, Orangeburg 4, Orangeburg 5, Saluda, Spartanburg 1, Spartanburg 3, Spartanburg 4, Spartanburg 6, Williamsburg and Williston 29. In addition, Bamberg 2 and Spartanburg 5 don’t have websites.

All told, 54 of the state’s school districts, or 64 percent, received either a failing grade or a “D-minus,” Sunshine Review reported.

Sunshine Review’s “10-Point Transparency Checklist,” measures content available on websites against what should be provided. Checklist items include information about budgets, meetings, elected and administrative officials, background checks, audits, contracts, academic performance, public records and taxes.

“Public education is important in every American community,” said Michael Barnhart, president of Alexandria, Va.-based Sunshine Review, a nonprofit organization dedicated to state and local government transparency. “It is crucial for parents and taxpayers to have access to complete information about how school districts operate.”

While rural districts tended to fare worse than urban districts in terms of transparency, the websites of many districts in more populated counties proved inadequate in terms of information available.

Of Spartanburg’s seven districts, four failed; one didn’t have a website; one received a “D-minus; and one, Spartanburg 7, received a “C-minus.”

In the Midlands, Richland 1 received a “B-minus;” Richland 2 a “D-minus;” Lexington 1 a “D-minus;” Lexington 2 a “C-minus;” Lexington 3 a “C-minus;” Lexington 4 a “D-minus;” and Lexington-Richland 5 a “C-minus.”

Also, Horry County School District received a “D-minus,” while the Fort Mill and Rock Hill districts received “C-minuses.”

The lack of transparency appears endemic in some areas: All three Orangeburg districts failed, as did all three Clarendon districts, both districts in Hampton and both in Marion.

Reach Dietrich at (803) 779-5022, ext. 110, or kevin@scpolicycouncil.com.