Now, with a flux in state sales tax revenue, the school districts might use the money to offset their budget shortfalls? (After all, the 85 public school districts finished FY 2007 with an average of more than $1,000.00 per child in cash on hand. This dwarfs the roughly $400 per child shortfall in state funding.) – Sadly no.
Instead of fully tapping into their reserves -the very existence of which begs questions about adherence to state funding mandates- the school districts have begun to flex their political muscles, and publicly clamor for more money through higher taxes.
Case-in-point: South Carolina’s Upstate:
Greenwood 52: $2.1 million surplus in 2007
Dan Powell, Superintendent exclaimed: “We will look at programs and positions and may not be filling positions that are vacated by either resignations or retirement. Class sizes will probably be larger.”
Spartanburg 1: $5 million surplus in 2007
According to the CBS affiliate WSPA (1/6): Superintendent Jimmy Littlefield claims: “I know that everyone in the public school sector is concerned about the reduced funding this year and potential reduced funding next year. Certainly we would encourage the general assembly to seek ways to generate additional revenue so that school funding could be restored to at least the level that we had anticipated for the 2008-2009 school year.”
Spartanburg 2: $8.8 million surplus in 2007
Spokesman for the district wrote to WSPA (1/6): “We are looking at our expenditures carefully by delaying certain maintenance projects that can wait (such as paving and roofs), striving to be more energy efficient, examining all travel requests, and not filling non-essential positions. Finally, we will be working carefully with our local legislators to craft needed changes in the way our state finances schools.”
Spartanburg 3: $2.4 million surplus in 2007
Superintendent Jim Ray to WSPA: “After the first two cuts, all area districts agreed to use our emergency funds to protect teacher positions and classroom supplies….With this latest staggering cut, SSD3 will look at classroom supplies and in-district professional training as well. I have not polled the other superintendents since the 7% cut. What has been cut so far pales to what is coming. We were advised Friday to build a budget that is 15% less that the total amount cut thus far. We have lost 1.3 million since August.”
Cherokee: $4.9 million surplus in 2007
Bill James, Superintendent said: “We have been cut $3.2 million so far. We are not sure how much is yet to come. Currently we have decided not to hire for any positions that become vacant, suspend travel and stop spending for anything that does not impact the classroom. Our primary fiscal objective is to keep all of our employees working.”
Laurens 55: $5.7 million surplus in 2007
Superintendent Edgar Taylor complained: “Since our budget is 87% in salaries, most of our cuts will have to be in personnel. I hope that we will be able to handle it with attrition, but we are gearing up for RIF if it becomes necessary. It is an unpleasant subject. The quality of education will go down state wide.”
“Larger class sizes?!”
“Generate more revenue?!”
Quality will go down?!”
These arguments will tug at your heart strings. That’s their agenda. But the same superintendents and school board members who are crying for ever-more tax money already have more than double the shortfall stashed away – and many are looking to roll-over large chunks of their General Funds again this year!
If lawmakers and parents want real reform and meaningful financial accountability they ought to consider school choice. That’s becuase tax credits for scholarships and independent school will save millions of dollars, and leave public schools with more money per child.