South Carolina public school funding 101


In 2008, public schools in South Carolina were given $11,480 for each and every student sitting in their classrooms.

The $11,480 average (now roughly $11,000 after mid-year state budget cuts) is a lot of money. Many parents wonder where all that money comes from. Here is a brief overview of how public school funding “works” in South Carolina.

Money -aka your tax dollars- flows into public school districts from three sources. They are:

– local county government

– state government in Columbia

– federal government in Washington DC

LOCAL MONEY: This is the money raised by county governments from property taxes, local option sales taxes, local hospitality taxes, local accommodation taxes, licenses, fees, charges and bonds. In 2007 these taxes provided $5.1 billion to school districts across South Carolina, up almost 100% from $2.6 billion in 2001. This K-12 public education spending accounted for 57% of the total $8.9 billion in local government income.

In 2008, local taxes provided 48% (or $5,516 of $11480) of the average per-student spending in public schools. The actual amount varies by district, and depends on the size of the county’s property tax base, willingness to levy local sales tax and similar factors.

STATE MONEY: This is the money raised by the state government of South Carolina and dispersed to local school districts through the General Fund (65 % of the General Fund appropriations come from the Education Finance Act), the Education Improvement Act, Lottery funds, “non-recurring provisos and special acts” (aka “pork”), the Capitol Reserve Fund, reimbursements for local property relief and exemptions, as well as grants. All told, actual state allocations on public schools totaled $3,2 billion dollars in 2008-09. That’s an increase of 23 percent since 2004.

On average, the state’s spending of $4,867 per student (or $4,400 after budget cuts) accounts for roughly 42 percent of public school spending in South Carolina.

FEDERAL MONEY: This is money collected by the United States government from income taxes (personal and corporate, real and capital gains), transfer taxes (estate and gift taxes), excise taxes (variously called “sin taxes” and/or “user fees”).

In 2008 the federal government provided South Carolina public schools with $757 million dollars, up from “just” $429 million in 2001. In 2008 the federal contribution accounted for 10 percent of the total $11,480 in per student spending in South Carolina.

Finally, it is important to note: Act 388 eliminated the school operating portion of property taxes on single family home. The “swap” or “transfer” means money collected from a newly raised state sales tax is sent back to local school districts based on how much they would have raised through property taxes (and yes, the local districts did raise assesment and millage to give themselves more money through the new trasnfers). For accounting purposes this money is still treated as “local” despite the fact that it is collected by the state.


2 responses to “South Carolina public school funding 101

  1. And the typical resident doesn’t support the “Voucher System”? I always got more bang for the buck by sending my daughters to private schools even though I paid the full toll, than what the average citizen gets from sending their children to public schools!. An investment well made, but why should I have to pay twice???

  2. I have 5 kids. Four are in Private Christian School now and I pay roughly $4,800 each for them to attend. If they can provide an excellent education for less than half what it takes the state, then you can see there is already too much money in the “System”. It is proof that “home-rule” is best for education.

    I know that vouchers will not ever pass because of the liberal media and the liberal thinkers involved with State run education. So why not allow us a simple state income tax deduction? That would cost the state nothing and would take the politics out the voucher debate. We need common sense solutions to all these problems!!! More money to more agencies and bureaucracy is not the answer!

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