South Carolina’s 2009-10 budget bill is moving through the legislative sausage factory.
The single largest item in this budget is K-12 public education.
According to H. 3560, the “base student cost” for the current fiscal year has been determined to be $2,342 (down from $2,578 last year). The total statewide pupil count is projected to be 691,816 (up from 690,363 last year).
This “base student cost” is the basis of a complicated formula that dictates the district-specific calculations for state and local government spending on public education in South Carolina. It gets a lot of press but only covers only a small fraction of the total public funding of education.
In 2008-09, while the base student cost was only $2,578, the total average per-student spending in public schools was $11,480. Of that sum $4,867 came from the state government in Columbia, $1,097 from the federal government, and a further $5,516 from local governments in South Carolina.
Parents know that for too long, these huge sums of money have not translated into effective education.
Thankfully, some lawmakers are committed to real change. They are sponsoring the SC Education Opportunity Act. This bill will allow parents a real choice. It will reward engaged parents who make responsible choices for their children by providing them with modest tax credits. It will similarly reward corporations that donate money to charities that provide low-income children with scholarships. This also means more money for public schools and smaller class sizes.