Jim Rex’s Columbia-based education bureaucracy continues to grow while classroom teachers worry about their jobs and parents worry about school bus fuel.
State Superintendent Jim Rex is working hard to insulate public schools from the across-the-board state budget cuts all other agencies are bracing for.
Rex has suggested that public schools are already so cash-strapped that a four-day school week should be adopted to save money for bus fuel. He has coyly insinuated that he would be forced to lay off classroom teachers unless state lawmakers safeguarded schools from the type of cuts being drafted for state roads, prisons, and other basic public safety and infrastructure needs. This despite per-student spending of more than $11,480 in public schools across the state.
Rex even contradicted his Department’s long-time opposition to local district budget autonomy so that local officials would take the political heat from choosing which programs to axe if funds are tight.
But the sad truth is that Jim Rex has spent the last two years on a massive spending spree.
Since Rex came to office, the Education Department has tripled the number of full time employees with salaries over $100,000.00!
According to the State Newspaper’s state employee salary database there are now sixteen “public educators” working for the Department at salaries in the six figures. Rex has also added another 65 full time employees earning above $50,000 since he took office.
Jim Rex has no credibility as a reformer or a steward of public money.
Not only has he argued for K-12 spending at the expense of public safety, he has attempted to use the budget debate as a political shield from criticisms of sinking test scores.
In fact, he recently suggested that budget cuts will require the schools to suspend the use of state mandated school and district accountability ratings. These are the “absolute” and “growth” rankings listed on school report cards to inform parents about the school’s instructional effectiveness.
Rex also worked hard to narrow the range of accountability standards when lawmakers replaced the PACT test last session. He even argued that public educators should eliminate all “absolute” ranking systems, and only report school performance in terms of relative performance growth, not in terms of anchored performance standards.
As State Superintendent, Jim Rex bears ultimate responsibility for ensuring all children in South Carolina have equal and ready access to effective instruction. His show-boating during the statewide budget crisis and his own record of exorbitant spending show he is not willing to properly bear it.