Bill would cut number of school districts in SC nearly in half

The number of school districts in South Carolina could be nearly cut in half under a proposal at the State House.
Published: Apr. 18, 2023 at 9:14 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 18, 2023 at 9:59 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - The number of school districts in South Carolina could be nearly cut in half under a proposal at the State House.

The bill, H.4100, would require there only be one school district wholly located in every county in South Carolina.

Eleven counties across the state currently have two or more districts: Anderson, Barnwell, Dillon, Dorchester, Florence, Greenwood, Laurens, Lexington, Richland, Spartanburg and York. However, legislation has already passed to consolidate Barnwell’s districts, so this bill would not affect them.

The bill would allow part of a county to be included in another neighboring county’s district.

It would result in the number of districts shrinking from more than 70 now to 46.

Supporters say these consolidations would streamline work and resources and save money.

“I think for a lot of these counties here, I think it’ll work well for those kids,” Rep. Terry Alexander, D-Florence and a cosponsor of the bill, said. “You reduce the number of superintendents, you reduce the number of assistant superintendents, you reduce the number of assistant, assistant, assistant superintendents.”

If this bill becomes law, those consolidations would have to be in place by July 1, 2025.

The bill would affect counties like York, which currently has four districts and a growing population.

“In my district of almost 10,000 students, my families have access to me whenever they want to have access to me,” Clover School District (York 2) Superintendent Dr. Sheila Quinn said. “If you put me as superintendent or anyone else as superintendent over a county the size of York County, their student access to district leadership and to the board and to the decision making that has to go into help students becomes much, much less.”

A fiscal impact study found there would likely be a one-time cost for consolidation.

But any additional costs or savings past that would be hard to determine, the report said.

“Certainly there is one CEO. We do understand that,” Quinn said. “But when you have a district the size of the entire York County, you would still need multiple people doing multiple responsibilities. So, you might not have one transportation director — you might have two or three transportation directors, that go to different parts of the county.”

A House subcommittee held a hearing on this bill Tuesday afternoon, which is the first step of the legislative process, but did not vote to advance it.

With this year’s legislative session ending next month, work on this bill will likely continue next year.