Looking Up in Marion County, SC

In 2009, the average SAT score for students in Marion School District One in South Carolina increased by 150 points or 11.5%. But before we break into a round of high-fives, let’s have a closer look. This improvement managed to earn Marion County the rank of 36th in the state. South Carolina has 46 counties, and Marion is 36th. This stat lets a little bit of air out of the balloon, but at least we are improving. We don’t have that far to go, right? Well, first consider that nationwide, our state is almost DEAD LAST in SAT scores. That’s right – out of 50 states, South Carolina is number 49 – the bottom of the barrel. Our county is 36th in a state that is 49th. If Marion County were a NCAA Division 1A football team, we could be about on par with West Kentucky in the Sun Belt Conference. In other words, don’t expect many pro scouts to be hanging around.

On a unrelated (or related) note, there are six different ways that the Department of Labor calculates the unemployment rate. They are designated U-1 through U-6. In all six categories, South Carolina ranks no better than 46th in unemployment in the country. We aren’t exactly last in any category, but we are 48th in two and 49th in one. (Thank you, Michigan.) Can you guess where Marion County ranks in unemployment within the state? Drum roll… DEAD LAST! Marion County has the highest unemployment in a state that has the highest (almost) unemployment in the country. Of course, it’s been this way for 10 years –but what else is new?

These are just two facts about our state and county. I suppose that I could dig around to find some other interesting data on poverty, crime, government assistance, child support delinquencies and the like; but who likes to beat a man while he’s down?

The question is – are these two statistics somehow related? Could it be that businesses don’t want to come to Marion County because we are just a bunch of dummies? Well, that may be a larger part of their strategy than we’d like to believe. Despite our beautiful town, its many trees (at least the ones that Progress Energy hasn’t mutilated yet), rich historical heritage, abundant land, vacant real estate, decent infrastructure and apparently a large percentage of the population ready and willing to go to work – companies stay away from us like the plague. Why?

That’s the question that we should be asking ourselves: “Why is this the case and how can we fix it?”  On the other hand, the question that we should be asking our students (and our idle workforce) is, “If you went to the store and bought three candy bars that cost $1 each, how much change should you expect back from a $5 bill if the sales tax rate is 10%?” If you don’t get an answer to the second question without the help of some electronic device, then perhaps you already have the answer to the first question.

About John Cox

I'm a 47 year old software engineer and father of four.
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