At her pharmacy in the small town of Branchville, Tracey Ott is worried about the future as Orangeburg County’s three school districts may soon consolidate into one.
“I truly don’t see a benefit,” she said.
Her kids go to school in Orangeburg County School District Four, which is a district Ott thinks could lose its influence if it’s consolidated with two others: Three and Five.
“My concern is, number one, possibly a possible tax hike and, number two, the future education of our children,” Ott said.
Others believe combining the three districts into one will save the county money, lead to more collaboration, and put everyone on a level playing field.
The plan to consolidate originated in the State Senate, and now, the plan’s just a few steps away from becoming law.
“I think most people are against it than they are for it,” said Rep. Jerry Govan (D-Orangeburg).
Rep. Govan understands the controversy and says the plan isn’t perfect, but he believes it does have merit.
“There are some benefits in terms of consolidation if you look at it from the standpoint of spreading out money and ensuring that all kids’ needs are being met,” he said.
Nevertheless, Govan’s using his influence to make the bill more palatable. The House has tacked on an amendment which would make sure parents and teachers are at the table as the three districts consolidate. He said another amendment recently added would protect schools by making the requirements to close one more stringent.
“We have tried to craft out improvements in the bill to try to soften the impact,” Govan said.
Regardless, Ott hopes lawmakers will rethink the controversial plan. And she’s not the only one.
The superintendent for Orangeburg County School District Four wrote a statement recently that says there’s no guarantee consolidation will save money. He wrote there’s a chance taxes will go up in two of the three districts, and he wrote that no one has explained to him how consolidation will benefit students.
He and many others are hoping to get those answers during a forum with lawmakers Monday night.
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