The future of the troubled state-owned John De La Howe School for at-risk children would be examined under a South Carolina Senate proposal that would establish a committee to review the McCormick County school.
The proposal is the Senate’s answer to House budget language that would close the school and turn over the property to Clemson University for potential agricultural education programs. The school dates back to a 1797 and was created by the will of its namesake, who left an endowment to educate local orphans. However, it has fallen into disrepair and its costs per-pupil have remained high as enrollment dropped in the past decade.
But senators say closure is not an option. “We just can’t arbitrary close the facility because of the will,” State Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, said on the Senate floor Wednesday.
Peeler said the proposed committee will make recommendations once they do a review of the school.
The committee will conduct an audit of the school and offer advice on what can be done to turn things around. “It needs new leadership,” he said. “So what this does is names what I call a SWAT team. Very much like we did with South Carolina State (University) to go in there and make recommendations.”
John de la Howe School has about 50 employees, but only has 30 students and receives $4.6 million in state money. House budgetwriters have called for the school to be closed due to its low enrollment numbers and comparatively expensive cost per-student. The House budget plan would shutter the school while Clemson University determines feasible education plans focusing on agriculture.