Tag Archives: Funding

School Districts Turn Financial Crisis Into Media Blitz

The Crowd Pleasers

Bureaucrats bask in media attention

No one wants hard working South Carolina teachers to lose their jobs. Maintaining an adequate number of effective teachers should be priority for school districts during a time of financial uncertainty.

While many administrators and bureaucrats pay constant lip service to this principle, actions on the part of some public school districts show a readiness to put teachers on the chopping block to gain ground in wringing more money out of drained state coffers.

Unfortunately, Midlands’ parents eager to look into the reality of school funding will be disappointed again by The State, whose reporting is transparently unwilling to dig deeper than the deceptive sound bytes of district spokespeople.

Lexington/ Richland 5:
Lex/Rich 5 has blazed new trails in exploiting financial turmoil to its own advantage. Even after a seemingly unending string of administrative scandals and misrepresentations, the district was somehow able to push through a bond referendum to finance the construction of new schools to accommodate a “growing” student population. In recent weeks, the district has announced the firing of 70 teachers as a result of not receiving federal stimulus funds, and hinted that these might not be the last.

How Lex/Rich 5 is pulling a fast one:

As The Voice previously reported, Lex/Rich 5’s own year-end report points to current cuts in staff being the result of a ten year hiring binge, not because of budget cuts and the lack of stimulus money. From 1999 to 2008, the number of teaching staff increased by 57%, while the student population increased by only 16%! After a district bond referendum was foisted off on trusting taxpayers, demographic information was released stating that school populations in the district were not expected to increase in the next few years. So much for desperately needed new schools. Teachers and taxpayers are getting short changed so bureaucrats can play at being victims. Lex/Rich 5 has jumped at the chance to blame its decade-long pattern of mismanagement and misrepresentation on something else, and is not above using teachers that are casualties of the district’s own shady dealings to do so. Continue reading

Sun News: Education decisions disappoint

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Columnist Issac Bailey of the Sun News editorializes on School Choice in South Carolina and Washington DC (5/16).

Education decisions disappoint

I haven’t decided whether I’m more disappointed in Gov. Mark Sanford or President Obama.

First Sanford.

In the latest school choice debate, the governor seemed all but silent. He felt it more important to hammer home his principles about limited government and tax cuts in the fight over a stimulus package he could not stop. The $700 million he has some control over may be wrestled away by the General Assembly, which passed a budget that included the stimulus money. That means a court fight is likely, one Sanford stands a good chance of losing.

Without that money, the state expects an additional 500 teachers to lose their jobs on top of 1,000 others that probably can’t be saved.

Sanford tried to use his leverage to force needed reform in state government, but he forgot one of the most important reforms, that of our educational system.

His “Put Parents First” bill of a few years ago wasn’t perfect, but it pushed the school choice debate onto the front page in a state slow to change. It would not have gotten that far without Sanford’s visible support. I like vouchers more than the tax credits he initially pushed. Still, because of his advocacy for choice, reform within the public school system happened more rapidly.

The charter school system is more robust, and the “public school choice” bill Superintendent of Education Jim Rex seems to be successfully ushering through the Statehouse probably would not have occurred at all had there not been a real school choice movement. Continue reading

Superintendent Jim Rex supports Student Scholarships

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Scholarships and choices are great (except for our K-12 schools)!

Politicians and bureaucrats at South Carolina’s State Department of Education seem to want it both ways.

Their taxpayer-funded publicists promote the importance of state scholarships for students attending colleges, universities, and vocational schools in South Carolina. They recently issued a press release (see photo) calling for greater awareness and utilization of the H.O.P.E., L.I.F.E and Palmetto Fellows Scholarships, which support students attending both public and private schools.

Similarly, State Superintendent Jim Rex has personally fundraised for non-profit scholarship granting organizations that serve low-income students making higher educational choices.

But, on the other hand, Jim Rex and his public school monopolist friends are adamantly opposed to providing similarly scholarship opportunities for students in grades K through 12 (even when the scholarships are privately funded) Continue reading

NAACP’s Rev. Darby debates School Choice with National Expert

MorethanMoney

Earlier this year, Senator Robert Ford (D-Charleston) announced his support for School Choice in South Carolina.

Ford made his position crystal clear: South Carolina public schools have persistently failed to properly educate low-income and minority children. A far reaching reform is required, and School Choice offers a way to engage parents and match children with classrooms suited to their needs. As Ford explained: “All of us have been defending the system. It’s time to stop. I’m not pussyfooting with this anymore.”

One of Ford’s most outspoken critics is Reverend Joseph Darby, senior pastor of the AME Morris Brown Church in Charleston, and First Vice President of the Charleston Branch of the NAACP.

Now, national expert on School Choice Andrew Coulson is engaging Rev. Draby in an online debate over the merits of School Choice. The first round of point and counter-point essays are posted on the CATO At Liberty blog.

For those who think the CATO blog is TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read) here is a paragraph-by-paragraph overview of the opening arguments: Continue reading

FL Beancounters: School Choice saves taxpayers money

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“…taxpayers saved $1.49 in state education funding for every dollar loss in corporate income tax revenue due to credits for scholarship contributions.” -FL Accountability Office

Florida is home to a Corporate Tax Credit Scholarships Program, similar to one being proposed in South Carolina.

In Florida, corporations may receive state tax credits for charitable contributions to nonprofit scholarship funding organizations (or “SFOs”). The amount of credit is equal to the amount contributed and may not exceed 75 percent of tax due for the taxable year. Currently, the total amount of tax credits that may be granted each year is $118 million (up from $88 million when the bill was adopted in 2001). The credits are awarded to corporations on a first-come, first-served basis.

The SFOs provide scholarships for attendance at private schools. Just as in the South Carolina legislation, participating private schools must be deemed compliant with state laws and regulations by the state and students must come from low-income families.

In the 2008-09 school year, 20,810 low-income students in Florida received scholarships to attend 937 participating private schools.

Obviously, any program that empowers the parents of 20,000 students to make real choices about K-12 education is a huge success.

Now the State Government of Florida reports that the tax credit program is also a fiscal success. Continue reading

Educators Plead With Senators to Help Children

“We’re losing our young men in this state. Some kids just need a different approach, a different environment to achieve.”- Col. Nathaniel Green, Eagle Military Academy

Eagle Military Academy is just one of the small, private schools around South Carolina serving low income students who could not make it in failing public schools. Last week’s Senate K-12 Education subcommittee meeting gave several representatives from these schools an opportunity to tell senators  how much their schools are doing to help children who would otherwise have no hope for an education and a future.

The overwhelming message of these schools:  “Give us the means to help more needy children.”

Senate Bill 520 provides an easy and accountable way for poor families to have access to private schools. Student Scholarship Organizations would receive contributions from individuals and corporations and disperse the money in the form of scholarships to families below 200% of the federal poverty level. For far less than the amount spent in public schools, privately donated scholarships can take a student out of a one-size-fits-all failing school, and into an environment truly geared toward helping them.

Senators have in their hands the opportunity to help schools like Eagle Military Academy continue to provide quality education and personal care for children who desperately need it. The other option is to ignore the pleas of desperate parents, children and educators, and take the easy route of caving in to education establishment bullying and fear mongering.


K-12 Education Legislation Update

sausage_making

“Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.”

H. 3352, relating to school district flexibility, received first reading in the Senate and was referred to the Finance Committee (4/24). Earlier, a compromised amendment was reached that ensures flexibility after providing information that shows 65% of their money is going to the classrooms, but the new amendment details exactly what accounts for classroom funds (2/18). While greater autonomy for school districts is important, this is not a truly smart-funding proposal.

H. 3175, giving priority enrollment to siblings of pupils already enrolled in a charter school, was amended and received second reading in the House. The amendment provides that the student currently at the school must have attended the school at least one academic year before their sibling may attend.

S. 442, revises the Aiken county of education board’s authority with regard to administrative area offices and area advisory councils, received second reading in the Senate (4/25). Continue reading

Funding of public schools in South Carolina

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Public educators in South Carolina insist the sustained and dramatic failures in their schools are the inevitable consequence of under-funding. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There is plenty of public money being spent, and it is coming from many different places.

Money for public schools comes from three sources: local, state, and federal governments. Local money is collected through property taxes (and now from the state sales tax based on the tax swap) and local sales taxes. State funding is a complicated function of a “base” student cost, matches of local funds, offsets for counties with smaller tax bases, and a range of programs or categories which assign money to specific programs implemented by schools and districts. Continue reading

FACT CHECK: Jim Rex’s “Begin in ’10″

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Just days after South Carolina State Superintendent Jim Rex announced his plan for a new statewide property tax, he also introduced befuddled lawmakers and frustrated taxpayers to his “Begin in ’10” program.

Despite two-years in public office, the plan is Rex’s first major attempt at a specific and comprehensive overhaul of a statewide public school system best known for its shameful 55% on-time high school graduation rate.

As the Post and Courier’s Yvonne Wenger reports:

The proposal, which Rex dubbed “Begin in ’10,” calls for immediate flexibility for school districts to juggle budget constraints by furloughing teachers and cutting back on assessment tests for certain students.

Rex also wants to expand 4-year-old kindergarten to all at-risk children, make taxation rates uniform statewide and require money to follow students while allocating additional dollars for children who live in poverty.

Awkwardly absent from Rex’s proposal was the use of school choice to save school districts money and improve public school student performance. Continue reading

Superintendent Jim Rex calls for new state property tax

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Today, State lawmakers heard from Superintendent Jim Rex about his plan for a new statewide property tax.

South Carolina public school districts already spend more than $11,000 per child but Rex is worried that declining state tax revenues might slow the growth rate in public school spending. The Budget and Control Board reports that public spending has grown by $2.2 billion since 2001, or 40% in the last seven fiscal years.

Rex’s plan begins with the replacement of South Carolina’s existing “Index of Taxpaying Ability,” a formula used by state lawmakers when determining how much state money should be sent to schools. The present formula considers how capable local governments are of collecting taxes based on property values in that county. Then state lawmakers determine what share of funding can be paid by the county and how much the state should help.

Rex’s plan would repeal the recently passed property-tax relief on family homes, rework the calculation of local tax contributions, and ultimately implement a statewide “uniform foundation” property tax millage in 2011. Confusingly, the new tax would be managed and collected by local governments, but established and calculated by state lawmakers.

Continue reading