I was offended after reading the article in The Sumter Item on June 12, 2021, titled "McCain: Meetings with district meant to break party voting lines." My first thought was, "McCain must think low-income people are naïve."
In numerous articles in The Sumter Item, Chairman McCain implied that he was never a strong advocate for the Sumter School District receiving its millage increases. The State Department of Revenue determines the annual millage rate for each school district under SC Law, Act 388. Republicans implemented this law in 2006.
Since becoming a member of Sumter County Council in 2005, the majority Democratic Party consistently voted to give the school district funds entitled by law. In 2012, the business community, including the Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce, mounted a solid campaign to deny the school district its millage request. On June 22, 2012, the four Black council members (Baten, Larry Blanding, Naomi Sanders and Vivian Fleming-McGhaney) received a letter from the Sumter County Association of Concerned Clergy. The letter was signed by Pastor Marion H. Newton, president; Pastor Telley L. Gadson, vice president; and endorsed by 25 members of the association. We were asked to give the school district the money needed, or our children (Black students) will suffer.
In an article (The Sumter Item) on June 12, 2019, former Board Chairman The Rev. Ralph Canty said the board would ask for the 9.01 mills the school district is entitled to. He said, "It's not the board's intent to collide with council, but a compromise is not in the best interest of the children or of the county."
For four consecutive years (2017-2020), the three Republicans voted unanimously to stop the school district from getting any increases. Now Chairman McCain thinks he is the "great savior" because he got them to cross party lines and agree to give the school district 2 mills ($375,000) which is "15 %" of the 13 mills ($2,437,500) it is entitled to. McCain voted against the three Democrats to give the school district more money.
McCain's political scheme degraded the quality of education for low-income children in Sumter County.
EUGENE R. BATEN
Sumter County Council
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