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Leatherman kills amendment that would have forced consolidation of three Florence school districts

April 10, 2019

FLORENCE, S.C. – State Sen. Hugh K. Leatherman Sr. has killed an amendment that would have forced three Florence County school districts to consolidate.

“Working on the Senate floor today I killed an amendment that would have forced 3 school districts in Florence to consolidate,” Leatherman said on Twitter. “Put simply, my constituents don’t want this and I’ll always fight for them.”

He said he was going to object with that amendment attached to the bill, and the Senate wanted unanimous consent to move the bill forward.

The amendment modified Senate Bill 203, which was pre-filed last December by Sen. Tom Young, a Republican representing southwestern Aiken County. Sen. Shane R. Martin, also a Republican, proposed an amendment to the bill that would have made any school district with fewer than 1,500 students eligible to receive funds to consolidate with other districts in their county.

Martin is the senator representing a small part of southeastern Greenville, southeastern Spartanburg and western Union counties.

According to data from the South Carolina Department of Education, Florence Two, Four and Five each has fewer than 1,500 students. Report card data from 2018 indicates that Florence Two had 1,168 students, Florence Four had 678 students and Florence Five had 1,235 students.

It is not clear how the districts would have consolidated or if they would have consolidated with other districts in the county.

Without the amendment, the three Florence Districts would be ineligible to receive state funds for consolidation under the bill.

The bill offers funds for counties ranked by the Department of Revenue into the lowest tier, according to per capita income and the unemployment rate. The Department of Revenue breaks the state into four tiers, the fourth one being eligible for consolidation funds under the bill.

Florence County is in the second tier. Darlington County is in the third tier. Dillon, Marlboro, Marion and Williamsburg counties are all in the fourth tier.

However, Darlington, Marion, Marlboro and Williamsburg only have one school district.

Dillon has two school districts: Dillon Three and Dillon Four, but neither school district has fewer than 1,500 students, according to report card data from the Department of Education. Dillon 3 is, however, close to 1,500 students.

If an eligible district does not work toward a consolidation plan under the bill, the districts are to be consolidated by the state department of education after Aug. 1, 2022.

Leatherman, a Republican, represents Senate District 31, which includes most of Florence County and two small pieces of eastern Darlington County. He previously was the president pro tempore of the Senate before the position was changed to president. Leatherman elected to continue to serve as chairman of the Finance Committee rather than seeking the position of president.

He subsequently was named president pro tempore emeritus by the Senate.

Florence County is one of three South Carolina counties to have five school districts. Florence One serves the area around the city of Florence. Florence Two serves Hannah-Pamplico. Florence Three serves the Lake City area. Timmonsville is served by Florence Four. Johnsonville is served by Florence Five.

Leatherman’s district includes a portion of each of the school districts.

Anderson County and Lexington County also have five school districts. Spartanburg County has seven.