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S.C. Lawmakers Consider Consolidation, Virtual Schools

Lawmakers in South Carolina may propose legislation to consolidate school districts and launch virtual K-12 programs to improve rural schools and free up more education funds, according to a recent story by The Times and Democrat.

In November, the South Carolina Supreme Court directed legislators to create a plan to improve education in the state's rural districts. The order came when the court ruled in favor of several rural districts that had accused the state of failing to adequately fund poor and rural schools. Sen. Brad Hutto, a Democrat, told The Times and Democrat that consolidating districts may help the state save money on administration and would provide more supervision for struggling districts. 

District consolidation is a common topic in rural states, as some research has found that consolidation, and the larger schools that are created as a result, can offer more courses and professional development for teachers. Some states, like Vermont, have considered consolidating districts to cut down on administrative costs. Critics of consolidation sometimes cite research that shows that small schools often have higher graduation rates and equal or better test scores than larger schools. In the wake of consolidation, students in rural areas may face longer bus rides and teachers may struggle to form new relationships.

According to the article, lawmakers in South Carolina may also propose virtual schools as a way to provide high-quality teachers to students in understaffed rural schools. Rural schools nationwide have relied on virtual instruction to offer advanced, enrichment, and required courses in the wake of teacher shortages and budget cuts. 

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