One Strand on the Wall – The SC Computer Science Education Initiative

If you listen to blues music long enough, you’ll hear stories about the “one strand on the wall” upon which old time blues legends learned to play guitar. The strand was a length of baling wire nailed up on a wall and stretched tight with bricks. A broken bottleneck or old nail was used as a slide or pick.

Imagine a six-year old child, dressed in ragged overalls, barefoot with fingers wrapped around the glass neck from a broken whiskey bottle, coaxing a lonesome note from baling wire nailed up on the side of a Mississippi Delta sharecropper cabin and you will understand why he grew up to play the blues. B. B. King related much the same story about his childhood to William Ferris at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at Ole Miss.

Big Joe Williams told music writer Debra Devi how as a child he made himself a one string guitar with baling wire and two thread spools. He went on to a 40-year career as a bluesman and was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1992. During his career, he used a nine-string guitar to trademark his unique sound. His grave marker reads “King of the Nine String Guitar,” but it was the one strand on the wall that got him started.

One strand on the wall was opportunity in the midst of a very personal poverty. Parents and siblings who saw a child’s talent had to create the strand out of necessity. They could not afford the $10 that a cheap guitar cost from Sears and Roebuck. Being a little less poor than his Delta peers, Doc Watson, known more for bluegrass than blues, sawed lumber as a child to earn the $10 for his first guitar and he was blind.

Doc Watson later left Deep Gap, North Carolina and attended the NC School for the Deaf and Blind. He went on to Greenwich Village in the early 1960’s where he became a major influence in the American folk music revival. Big Joe Williams toured around the South and finally found international fame in Greenwich Village about the same time as Doc. B. B. King went north to Memphis and then to Los Angeles where he became the larger than life B. B. King. These musicians and a host of others with similar backgrounds went on to become major influences in American music, all because of one strand and a little help from friends and family.

If we define poverty generally as having insufficient or unreliable resources, South Carolina has many communities that are impoverished on a generational level. They lack the one basic building block that would allow them to pull themselves out of poverty: a reliable tax base. Before my conservative friends call for a straight jacket and admit me to the nearest Trump property before I call for a tax increase (which I’m not doing, just to be clear) allow me to elaborate.

A tax base consists of activities that generate tax revenue from current tax rates. Retail sales, real property ownership and improvements, wages earned and large and small business activity are the basic components of a tax base. Long established rural communities that never developed these components have great difficulty pulling out of generational poverty.

When it comes to creating a modern educational system, these communities are caught in a catch-22. In our current economy, education improves people whose skills attract business that creates wealth that fuels the tax base that sustains the educational system that communities need to improve in the first place.

How do we avoid the old “throw money at the problem” impulse, which is just redistributing tax revenue from elsewhere, and help communities build their own tax base? By requiring local school districts to offer classes in subjects that students will actually need in our modern technology driven economy, classes that can be that one strand on the wall that sparks the student to develop greater skills and attract business to the community. Or better yet, creates the opportunity for that student to start his own business in the community.

House Bill 3427 creates an important one strand among many that will be needed in the future. Filed as the South Carolina Computer Science Education Initiative, it requires all public school districts to offer students at least one substantive computer science class in each high school. The Initiative goes on to require grade appropriate computer courses for k-12 students and creates the process for communities to earn a STEM designation that can be used to showcase their progress and attract business.

Then, when you are not in a dark place listening to Lightning Hopkins, take a moment to ruminate on the high school computer science requirement. The fact that these classes are not already required speaks loudly as to why generational poverty continues to exist in South Carolina.

State House Report Week 4 – New Chief Justice, Appointing the Super of Ed & In-State Tuition

Each year, the General Assembly convenes in a joint legislative session to fill judicial seats throughout our state, including an opening on the South Carolina Supreme Court. In keeping with our constitutional responsibilities, my colleagues and I elected Judge George C. “Buck” James by acclamation to a term on the Supreme Court.

Currently, a committee comprised of legislators, citizens, and legal professionals accepts applications for open judicial positions, screens each applicant to verify their qualifications, and by a committee vote selects three finalists who vie for support among the 170-member General Assembly (both House and Senate members). My House colleges and I are currently debating a proposal on the House floor to lift the three-person limit currently placed on the screening committee. Eliminating this would allow all duly qualified individuals seeking to serve our state on the judiciary to compete. This good-government legislation has passed the House in previous years.

Recently the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would cause the State Superintendent of Education to be appointed by the Governor instead of elected by popular vote. This would increase the amount of accountability surrounding the office of the Superintendent of Education by allowing the Governor to directly oversee the delivery of public education to South Carolina’s children. Reforms like this deliver a better return to the taxpayer and real results for parents and students.

Another bill making its way through the legislative process would grant in-state tuition rates to any veteran (and his/her dependents) honorably discharged from the Armed Services of the United States. The bipartisan measure which waives the one-year residency waiting period has already passed out of full committee with a favorable report and amassed 68 co-sponsors from all corners of the state. Ours is a state with a rich history of honoring those who have served our nation, and this continues that fine tradition.

Finally, I’d like to address the recent phenomenon known as “fake news.” It’s not uncommon for erroneous reports masquerading as truth and fact to spread like wildfire on internet platforms. As your representative, I am always here to answer any questions you have. If you come across an article that either seems especially egregious, or too good to be true, maybe it is; and to assist you in verifying fact from fiction, I am only an email or phone call away. It is an honor and a privilege to serve you in Columbia. If you need help navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me at Tommy@tommystringer.com.

Education Bills Advance

Two k-12 education bills that passed the House last session as part of the Abbeville school district, etal. package of reform bills but were orphaned by the Senate as the session ended will receive third reading today. In other words, we started off our k-12 efforts by repeating what we have already done. Hopefully the Senate will take the time to consider the bills before 2018.

The following is taken from yesterday’s House Journal which will direct you to a full description of each bill –

H. 3220 — Reps. Allison, West, Collins, Felder, B. Newton, Govan, Brown, Whipper, Davis and Anderson: A BILL TO AMEND THE CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, BY ADDING SECTION 59-59-175 SO AS TO ESTABLISH THE SOUTH CAROLINA EDUCATION AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COORDINATING COUNCIL AND TO PROVIDE FOR ITS MEMBERSHIP, DUTIES, AND FUNCTIONS.

Rep. HILL proposed the following Amendment No. 1 to H. 3220 (COUNCIL\SD\3220C001.NL.SD17), which was adopted:
Amend the bill, as and if amended, Section 59-59-175, as contained in SECTION 1, by adding an appropriately lettered subsection at the end to read:
/ ( ) The provisions of this section expire five years after its effective date unless the General Assembly by law extends its provisions. /
Renumber sections to conform.
Amend title to conform.

Rep. HILL explained the amendment.
The amendment was then adopted.

Rep. STRINGER explained the Bill.

The question then recurred to the passage of the Bill.

The yeas and nays were taken resulting as follows:

Yeas 101; Nays 1

Those who voted in the affirmative are:
Allison Anderson Anthony Arrington Atkinson Atwater
Bales Ballentine Bamberg Bennett Bernstein Blackwell
Bradley Brown Burns Caskey Chumley Clary
Clemmons Cobb-Hunter Cogswell Cole Collins Crawford
Crosby Daning Davis Dillard Douglas Duckworth
Elliott Ericsson Felder Finlay Forrest Forrester
Fry Funderburk Gagnon Govan Hart Hayes
Henderson Henegan Herbkersman
Hewitt Hiott Hixon Hosey Howard Huggins
Jefferson Johnson Jordan King Kirby Knight
Loftis Long Lowe Lucas Mack Magnuson
Martin McEachern McKnight Mitchell D. C. Moss Murphy
Neal B. Newton W. Newton Norrell Ott Parks
Pitts Pope Putnam Ridgeway S. Rivers Robinson-Simpson
Ryhal Sandifer Simrill G. R. Smith J. E. Smith Sottile
Spires Stringer Tallon Taylor Thigpen Weeks
West Wheeler Whipper White Whitmire WilliamsWillis Yow
Total–101

Those who voted in the negative are:
Hill
Total–1
So, the Bill, as amended, was read the second time and ordered to third reading.

 

H. 3221 — Reps. Allison, Collins, Felder, Daning, Govan, Taylor, Knight and Anderson: A BILL TO AMEND THE CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, BY ADDING SECTION 59-20-90 SO AS TO REQUIRE THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO DEVELOP AND ADOPT A STATEWIDE PROGRAM FOR IDENTIFYING FISCAL PRACTICES AND BUDGETARY CONDITIONS THAT, IF UNCORRECTED, COULD COMPROMISE THE FISCAL INTEGRITY OF A SCHOOL DISTRICT AND FOR ADVISING THE DISTRICT ON HOW TO TAKE APPROPRIATE CORRECTIVE ACTIONS, TO ESTABLISH THREE LEVELS OF FISCAL AND BUDGETARY CONCERNS WITH CONDITIONS AND REQUIREMENTS ASSOCIATED WITH EACH, AND TO DIRECT THE DEPARTMENT TO PROMULGATE REGULATIONS TO CARRY OUT THE PROVISIONS OF THIS SECTION; AND BY ADDING SECTION 59-20-95 SO AS TO REQUIRE THE STATE AUDITOR TO ADOPT THE STATEWIDE PROGRAM CREATED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION IN SECTION 59-20-90 AND USE IT TO IDENTIFY FISCAL PRACTICES AND BUDGETARY CONDITIONS THAT, IF UNCORRECTED, COULD COMPROMISE THE FISCAL INTEGRITY OF A STATE AGENCY THAT IS ALSO A LOCAL EDUCATION AGENCY AND TO ADVISE THE STATE AGENCY THAT IS ALSO A LOCAL EDUCATION AGENCY ON HOW TO TAKE APPROPRIATE CORRECTIVE ACTIONS, AND TO PROVIDE EXCEPTIONS TO ENABLE THE STATE AUDITOR TO DIRECT THE DEPARTMENT TO IMMEDIATELY ASSUME EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT OF THE STATE AGENCY THAT IS ALSO A LOCAL EDUCATION AGENCY FOR WHICH IT HAS MADE A DECLARATION OF FISCAL CAUTION OR FISCAL EMERGENCY, TO CONTINUE THIS EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT OF THE LOCAL EDUCATION AGENCY UNTIL THE STATE AUDITOR RELEASES THE STATE AGENCY THAT IS ALSO A LOCAL EDUCATION AGENCY FROM THE DECLARATION OF FISCAL CAUTION OR FISCAL EMERGENCY, AS APPLICABLE, AND TO DIRECT THE STATE AUDITOR TO PROMULGATE REGULATIONS TO CARRY OUT THE PROVISIONS OF THIS SECTION.

Rep. STRINGER explained the Bill.

The yeas and nays were taken resulting as follows:

Yeas 101; Nays 0
Those who voted in the affirmative are:
Allison Anderson Anthony Arrington Atkinson Atwater
Bales Ballentine Bamberg Bennett Bernstein Blackwell
Bradley Brown Burns Caskey Chumley Clary
Clemmons Clyburn Cobb-Hunter
Cogswell Cole Crawford Crosby Daning Davis
Dillard Douglas Duckworth Elliott Erickson Felder
Finlay Forrest Forrester Fry Funderburk Gagnon
Govan Hart Hayes Henderson Henegan Herbkersman
Hewitt Hill Hiott Hixon Hosey Howard
Huggins Jefferson Johnson Jordan King Kirby
Knight Loftis Long Lowe Mack Martin
McEachern McKnight Mitchell D. C. Moss Murphy Neal
B. Newton W. Newton Ott Parks Pitts Pope
Putnam Ridgeway S. Rivers Robinson-Simpson Ryhal Sandifer
Simrill G. R. Smith J. E. Smith Sottile Spires Stringer
Tallon Taylor Thayer Thigpen Toole Weeks
West Wheeler Whipper White Whitmire Williams
Willis Yow

Total–101

Those who voted in the negative are:

Total–0

So, the Bill was read the second time and ordered to third reading.

Tommy Stringer