Stephon Gilmore, from the public school South Pointe, is one of many public school students on the team.
Yes, this is a politics-based article. If you don't want to read about a current issue in the state of South Carolina, please feel free to click the little red "X" in the upper right corner of the screen.
However, this is something that has some meaning to South Carolina high school sports and recruiting for the University of South Carolina.
South Carolina has one of the lowest-rated education systems in the country. That pains me to say, as I am a third grade public school teacher. However, it is true. The incessant budget cuts that recent governor Mark Sanford imposed across education have not helped matters at all.
So, you say, what does this have to do with sports?
Well, let me give you a small example: When I was first teaching, I was the head basketball coach of a middle school team. I loved it with all of my heart. The interaction with the children, the teaching of a sport I have a passion for—it was all good.
Then I got a very interesting memo.
It went a little something like this:
Due to state budget cuts, we can no longer afford to pay for a driver to drive the bus to take you and your team to and from the away games on your schedule.
In order to keep the program running, you have the option of paying for your CDL (commercial driver's license) and driving the bus yourself for free.
I was a first-year teacher and couldn't afford the training. However, some strings were pulled and volunteers stepped forward to drive for us.
Now, this may seem very small, but this was just the beginning of the State budget cuts. The next year, girls' middle school programs were cut due to more budget issues.
This year, South Carolina has a newly elected governor ready to take Governor Sanford's place. Her name is Nikki Haley, and she is all for removing public school funds and giving lower income students private school vouchers in order to have them removed from public schools.
The ramifications for sports that this will cause I will get to in a moment, but I would like to discuss the educational ramifications briefly.
With funding already down to a 1960s level, this will take even more funding from the state schools. One of the reasons that private schools work so well is because the students are limited to wealthier students who have parents willing to invest the money in a good education.
The teachers are the same, the content is the same. The only difference is the type of students being taught. So when a low-income, low-performing, negative behavioral student receives a voucher to go to private school, all it will do is cheapen the private school experience.
Also, there is a reasonable opinion that as soon as the state gives private school vouchers, the private schools will raise their tuition. It is a private entity, so it can do that. If the state gives a student $6,000 in voucher money, then the tuition could be raised to $10,000. An underprivileged student will still have to raise $4,000.
Once again, what does this have to do with sports, you might ask?
Well, what do you think school districts' No. 1 "cutting ground" is for eliminating cost?
That's right: Sports.
But wait, you ask, they sell tickets and concessions...they are self-sufficient!
Not so. School districts set aside a large amount of money (for big districts, in the millions) for sports insurance, upkeep, equipment, coaches' salaries and other miscellaneous sports-related costs.
Take a look at the South Carolina Gamecocks roster. Most of those players have come from public schools. Many from South Carolina. When more budget cuts occur, the quality of their "football education" will go down.
Schools won't be able to afford good coaches and new equipment. Schools won't be able to maintain an appropriate field or gym.
Some schools won't be able to afford sports programs at all.
South Carolina football schools (both Carolina and Clemson) rely on these in-state recruits.
Let's hope that school districts within the state can afford to produce them.