Frustration with Lexington-Richland 5

Lexington Richland District Five

“Not to worry, it’s not real money, it’s public money!”

A letter to the editor of the State Newspaper.

“District 5 has problem with openness”

“I read with interest school board chairman Robert Gantt’s op-ed (“Community supports District 5 building plan,” June 24) in which he said Lexington-Richland 5 made enrollment information available to voters before the referendum.

“For more than a year, the district told us enrollment was growing fast. At one point, the administration told us growth would be between 300-800 students annually. That’s growth you can look around and see, and because many residents looked around and didn’t see it, we questioned their figures.

“When this past year’s student enrollment count came out, a group of residents wrote the superintendent requesting the information. On Oct. 17, several residents filed a Freedom of Information Act request, which asked the district for the enrollment. Not a hard question, right? Continue reading

Traditional Public Schools Not Ideal for Every Child

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One-size-fits-all government schools: YOUR tax dollars forcing a square peg into a round hole.

With the help of a $191,000 federal grant, an after-school program will be able starting up at an Aiken County elementary school.
Aiken Families in Transition,” the grant recipient, will take in up to 125 students who need after-school help in a wide variety of academic and critical-thinking subjects.

According to a State Department of Education press release, Superintendent Rex expressed encouragement for the program, stating, “ Students who are struggling in class can get a real academic boost in a well-run after-school setting.”

Through a variety of grants and private contributions, some of the needy students in Aiken County are going to get the instruction they need to compete and excel. For these students, who undoubtedly have a wide variety of learning needs and aptitudes, this help is going to come from outside a traditional, public school classroom.
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2009 SC Legislative Wrap-up (BUDGET & SPENDING)

South Carolina Expectation Advisory

In December and January the Voice posted summaries of legislation introduced in the South Carolina State Legislature.

Here, seven months later, is an overview of the status of those and other bills relating to the budget and state spending practices.

(Also look for upcoming reviews of K-12 Education bills, Charter School bills, and Tax bills):

S. 2 Remove and replace state spending cap

This legislation revises this limit by imposing an annual limit on the appropriation of state general fund revenues by adjusting such revenues by a rolling ten-year average in annual changes in general fund revenues and the creation of a separate budget stabilization fund in the state treasury to which must be credited all general fund revenues in excess of the annual limit. The bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee and did not receive any further action.

S. 72 State agencies and institutions justify dollars from any source

This legislation provides that all state agencies, departments, colleges, universities, institutions, and entities shall report to the general assembly and to the governor on January 15th and July 15th of each year the justification of the dollars from any source that are received by them, and how these dollars are used to provide services to the citizens of the state, and to provide for the administration of and exceptions to this provision. The bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee and did not receive any further action.

S. 130 Requires budget to have narrative

This legislation requires the Governor’s annual budget recommendation and the reports of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee on the annual General Appropriations Act to be in a programmatic format by providing a narrative description of each separate program administered by a state agency and providing the elements that must be included in the narrative. The bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee and did not receive any further action. Continue reading

SCASA Grabs for a Slice of Stimulus Pie

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SCASA Executive Director Molly Spearman eager for a taxpayer-subsidized bailout!

Everyone’s favorite taxpayer- subsidized, education bureaucracy cheering squad is suffering from a terminal case of greed.

The South Carolina Association of School Administrators ( SCASA), a slavering defender of anything done by South Carolina’s bloated education bureaucracy, has been recently exposed for its efforts to lay hands on $300,000 of federal “bailout” money.

How? Why? Last time The Voice checked, SCASA didn’t do anything except posture with people like this, and try to influence the legislature through publicly-funded lobbyists.

Yesterday FITSNews broke the story on this latest SCASA money grab -

According to documents filed with S.C. Supreme Court earlier this month, SCASA is requesting more than $150,000 worth of “cost reimbursement” for its legal fees – an amount which would be doubled under the “multiplier” recommended in a companion brief filed by USC law professor John P. Freeman.

The petition filed by SCASA argues that S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford acted “without substantial justification” in opposing a portion of the federal “bureaucratic bailout” funds allotted to South Carolina, and that the organization should be compensated for securing the money on behalf of all South Carolinians.”

What do these people do anyway? Certainly setting up expensive, beach retreats for bureaucrats during a recession, and excusing failures of the state’s public education system, are not sufficient reasons for struggling taxpayers to have to subsidize them through dues and the state health care plan.

Our state’s legislature needs to kick groups like SCASA away from the public trough, and make sure every tax dollar is being allocated to legitimate needs, or going back into the pockets of citizens.

Anderson District 1 Smoke And Mirrors Budget

Superintendent Wayne Fowler Anderson District One

This coming 2009-10 school year, public schools in Anderson County District One are slated to receive funding of $8,194 per child.

Of that sum, $4,053 comes from state government, $656 from the federal government, and $3,485 is locally raised.

Based on those figures (published by the SC Legislature), and with a student population of 9,168, the district’s total budget should be $75 million.

But members of the Board of Trustees recently told the Powdersville Post, Anderson Independent Mail, and Greenville News the figure is only $54.2 million (or $5,911 per student).

The same Board Trustees also raised personal property taxes on secondary homes, rental properties, vehicles and businesses from a millage of 112 to 118.9. Only one trustee, Wendy Tucker, fought against the hike.

So why the $54.2 million figure? Where is the other $21 million?

Continue reading

Orangeburg Superintendent Pockets $84K “bonus”

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Superintendent is getting a questionable payout as teachers are forced to furlough.

In late June, the Voice received a anonymous letter detailing more financial shenanigans in Orangeburg School District Five.

Orangeburg Five Melvin Smoaks Superintendent

The author suggested that the local superintendent worked behind the scenes with members of the School Board to massively inflate his daily pay.

Lee Tant, of the Orangeburg Times and Democrat, just published a great article detailing exactly how District Superintendent Melvin Smoak is “supplementing” his salary:

Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5 Superintendent Melvin Smoak has received more than $84,000 as compensation for vacation and sick days he didn’t use over the past 35 years.

Normally, district employees are paid just $40 a day for unused sick days. But in 2006, the board amended Smoak’s contract to apply his daily pay rate for each day of unused sick leave he accumulated at the end of the contract.

[Smoak] was given two raises after the amendment was made, which boosted his daily pay rate to $540, according to his contract.

Tant then explains that according to official district policy, unused sick days can accumulate from year-to-year. But district employees can only carry over 10 vacation days to the next year. Any unused vacation days beyond that are lost at the end of the year. Continue reading

South Carolina public school funding 2009-2010

South Carolina Public School Funding

Many parents (and even many lawmakers) are confused about the size and scope of public spending on government schools in South Carolina.

Money for public schools comes from three sources (local, state, and federal taxes) and filters down to the classroom through a convoluted array of “programs” and “categories” leaving a mere 43 cents per dollar for classroom instruction.

Regular Voice readers will  recall that in South Carolina there is no discernible correlation between per-student funding levels and student achievement, and that real School Choice is the only proven reform that will both save money and improve student achievement.

All that said, many parents and taxpayers are still surprised to hear that public schools across South Carolina will be funded at an average of $11,242 per child this year. Compare that to just $8,500 last year in North Carolina.

From the South Carolina Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2009-2010:

The base student cost for the current fiscal year for Part IA has been determined to be $2,034 and the base student cost for Part III has been determined to be $300 for a total base student cost of $2,334. In Fiscal Year 2009-10, the total pupil count is projected to be 691,816. The average per pupil funding is projected to be $4,153 state, $1,296 federal, and $5,792 local. This is an average total funding level of $11,242 excluding revenues of local bond issues.

Here is the district-by-district listing of local, state, and federal allocations for each of the 85 public school districts:

In Fiscal Year 2009-10, the Abbeville School District total pupil count is projected to be 2,911. The per pupil funding is projected to be $6,059 state, $1,616 federal, and $3,604 local. This is a total projected funding level of $11,279 excluding revenues of local bond issues.

In Fiscal Year 2009-10, the Aiken School District total pupil count is projected to be 23,640. The per pupil funding is projected to be $4,084 state, $1,225 federal, and $3,673 local. This is a total projected funding level of $8,982 excluding revenues of local bond issues. Continue reading