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Charleston City Paper: "Why are Florida schools moving forward and ours falling behind?"

Tara Servatius, Columnist

March 27-April 7, 2013

They pack their families like lemmings into 1,400 square-foot houses situated on postage stamps in Mt. Pleasant and tell themselves they are doing it for their kids' education. They pay $150 a month for flood insurance on those homes to attend the highest scoring schools in the region.

I know, because I am one of those parents. And when these parents hear that South Carolina's schools are at the bottom of the barrel nationally, that the state is a backwards morass when it comes to education, they think to themselves ... not my child's school.

On the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test, low-income Florida students outscored all South Carolina students on the fourth grade reading exam in 2011, a report by DeMint's new Palmetto Policy Forum says. No, you didn't read that wrong. It's so shocking you may need to take a minute to process it before reading on.

It wasn't always this way. Fifteen years ago, South Carolina students outscored Florida students in most categories. In 1998, Florida's Hispanic students read approximately one grade level behind the average South Carolina student. Today, they outscore the statewide reading averages of all students in South Carolina. In 1998, South Carolina's black students significantly outscored black students in Florida in reading. Now, Florida's black fourth graders read a full grade level ahead of their South Carolina peers.

Florida is now 14th in the nation in NAEP reading scores, with scores well above the national average. And that's with a statewide school system in which 69 percent of the children are poor. South Carolina is 42nd and scores below the national average.

It's not because South Carolina is "poor" and doesn't spend enough money. The revenue spent per student in Florida is $9,975. In South Carolina, it's $10,941. In Florida, that includes the capital money used to build schools. In South Carolina, it doesn't.

Tara Servatius hosts the morning show on Charleston's WTMA 1250 AM.

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