Change or Status Quo in S.C. House District 55

By Paul Gable

Dillon County Council member Jack Scott is fighting an uphill battle for the Democratic nomination for S.C. House District 55.

Scott is taking on a 20 year incumbent politician in rural South Carolina, never an easy task. In taking on incumbent Jackie Hayes, Scott is also fighting a highly successful coach and athletic director who has brought considerable success to the Dillon High School football teams in over a quarter of a century as head coach.

Scott advocates giving voters the opportunity to elect members of the Dillon County School Board. Currently, the board is appointed by the governor, often on recommendations from the Dillon County Legislative Delegation which consists currently of Rep. Hayes, Rep. Lucas Atkinson, Sen. Kent Williams and Sen. Greg Hembree.

In 2010, Dillon County residents voted overwhelmingly in an advisory referendum to change the school board members from being appointed by the governor to being elected by the voters – 6,071 Yes votes for elected members to 737 No votes.

Being only an advisory referendum, the results were not binding and nothing has changed. The board is still appointed against the wishes of an overwhelming majority of voters.

Dillon County spends the lowest dollars per pupil in the state of South Carolina, the only county where less than $10,000 per pupil is spent in a combination of local, state and federal funds. Part of the problem is the local tax base is almost non-existent, but the state share to Dillon County is lower than most other school districts in the state.

Maybe an elected school board will not change things for Dillon County students, but it is obvious the current system is not working and a majority of voters expressed a desire for the change.

Scott has also said he will work to improve the crumbling infrastructure in Dillon County, something that will require an infusion of state dollars to help. Those dollars have been slow in coming from the current Legislative Delegation.

Too many areas of South Carolina are controlled by a small cabal of power brokers in each area. The self interest of those power brokers is often served at the expense of the overall public good.

Scott shook up the power structure in Dillon County with Facebook posts early in the campaign to the point that he received a letter from the attorneys representing the Dillon County School Board objecting to the accuracy of his posts.

Why attorneys representing the school board when this is a race for the state House of Representatives? No logical reason has been discovered to date.

In addition, what was objected to in various posts fit into the category of political speech, the most protected form of free speech in the country. The entire exercise was questionable from the beginning.

The attorneys offered to sit down one-on-one with Scott to discuss the issues he discussed on Facebook. Scott countered with a request that an open, public forum be held to discuss the issues.

According to Scott, no response has been received addressing his request for the public forum.

This late in the campaign, it can be assumed that no public discussion of the issues will be held before the primary elections next week.

A vote for Scott will be a vote for change in the ways things are done in Dillon County.

It will be up to the voters to decide if they are satisfied with the current state of affairs in the county or whether a change should be made.


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