The state Senate Education Committee moved forward legislation that would put remove the board of trustees at Denmark Technical College and move the school under the direct control of the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education.
Sponsor of the proposal Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, said Wednesday the school is suffering from low recruitment of students and financial problems. “Dramatic decrease in enrollment over the last couple of years. We are in the process of appointing a new board, but I’m not sure that is going to solve this,” he said.
Hutto said one the reasons for low enrollment is that students are enrolling in other technical schools “More students are enrolling in Tri County Tech in Beaufort and Aiken Tech in Aiken and Orangeburg Tech in Orangeburg than in Denmark Tech,’ said Hutto.
With the decline in enrollment came other problems. Hutto said that the school did not reduce its staff to match the drastic drop in enrollment. “So they are in financial difficulty.”
Wednesday’s vote moved the proposal to the full Senate floor. School trustees oppose the effort, saying the state is overreacting. Board Chairman Thomas Williams has previously expressed fear that state control could be the first steps towards eventually shuttering the small school for good.
“We don’t have the kind of issues that would warrant having somebody come in and take over,” he said, noting the school still has financial reserves and is able to pay its bills, unlike South Carolina State University at the time of a 2015 overhaul by the legislature.
State Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington, questioned if putting the school under a state board was the right thing to do. “The issue is that is this the only solution,” Malloy said
The proposal would still have to be voted on by the full Senate.