Tag Archives: South Carolina public schools

Department of Education gives Consultants $391,469 Stimulus Package

Molly Spearman SCASA

It’s that time again. The time when South Carolina taxpayers can see just how much money the “strapped” SC State Department of Education has paid out to education contractors and consultants during a recession.

This month, almost $400,000 was doled out to a variety of consultants, contractors and political advisers. Unfortunately, those aren’t the only people who got paid big bucks. Teachers may be on furlough, or without work, but SCASA managed to somehow squeeze $29,000 from taxpayers. Were some of these other payments made to folks who had booths set up at the recent SCASA oceanside retreat? Rex’s frequent excuse that contractors are brought in to “save the department money” certainly doesn’t hold water in this instance.

Here is a recap of consultant spending in 2009.

  • January-$296,526
  • February-$358,398
  • March-$366,996
  • April-$397,876
  • May-$333,791
  • June-$391,469
  • Year to Date$2,145,056

Here is a complete list of contractors and consultants who received checks from the Department of Education in June 2009. See it for yourself here.

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South Carolina public school funding 2009-2010

South Carolina Public School Funding

Many parents (and even many lawmakers) are confused about the size and scope of public spending on government schools in South Carolina.

Money for public schools comes from three sources (local, state, and federal taxes) and filters down to the classroom through a convoluted array of “programs” and “categories” leaving a mere 43 cents per dollar for classroom instruction.

Regular Voice readers will  recall that in South Carolina there is no discernible correlation between per-student funding levels and student achievement, and that real School Choice is the only proven reform that will both save money and improve student achievement.

All that said, many parents and taxpayers are still surprised to hear that public schools across South Carolina will be funded at an average of $11,242 per child this year. Compare that to just $8,500 last year in North Carolina.

From the South Carolina Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2009-2010:

The base student cost for the current fiscal year for Part IA has been determined to be $2,034 and the base student cost for Part III has been determined to be $300 for a total base student cost of $2,334. In Fiscal Year 2009-10, the total pupil count is projected to be 691,816. The average per pupil funding is projected to be $4,153 state, $1,296 federal, and $5,792 local. This is an average total funding level of $11,242 excluding revenues of local bond issues.

Here is the district-by-district listing of local, state, and federal allocations for each of the 85 public school districts:

In Fiscal Year 2009-10, the Abbeville School District total pupil count is projected to be 2,911. The per pupil funding is projected to be $6,059 state, $1,616 federal, and $3,604 local. This is a total projected funding level of $11,279 excluding revenues of local bond issues.

In Fiscal Year 2009-10, the Aiken School District total pupil count is projected to be 23,640. The per pupil funding is projected to be $4,084 state, $1,225 federal, and $3,673 local. This is a total projected funding level of $8,982 excluding revenues of local bond issues. Continue reading

Some Districts Refrain from Lavish Conference Spending

Mike Lucas Oconee copy

While many school superintendents are in Myrtle Beach mingling and relaxing on the taxpayer dime, some officials are choosing not to indulge.

For years now, attendees at the annual South Carolina Association of School Administrators (SCASA) “Leadership Conference” have been returning to their districts with large bills that the taxpayers’ are expected to pay. Now, watchdog groups are decrying these taxpayer-subsidized amenities as “wasteful” in light of the financial struggles many school districts are facing.

Teachers have lost their jobs because of money shortages, but some administrators manage to find enough to pay for their beachfront vacations.

Mike Lucas, Superintendent of Oconee County School District, has chosen not to attend the Myrtle Beach function. In The Daily Journal, Superintendent Lucas stated

“No local administrators are participating at district expense at the conference. Anyone from the school district at the conference had to cover their own costs because of state funding cuts.”

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South Carolina’s Jim Rex likes vacation, not tough questions

Jim Rex Beach Vacation South Carolina

Superintendent “Dropout Jim” Rex went down to the sunny shores of beautiful Myrtle Beach this week to enjoy some hard-earned taxpayer-financed pampering.

From the controversial SCASA summer retreat, Rex conducted his annual State of the School Address, an event that Jim and his publicists are trying desperately to make into a major media event.

That didn’t quite happen this year.

Even before the dramatic story of Governor Sanford’s trip to the Appalachian Trail Argentina crowded out other news events, Rex failed to secure any live broadcast television or radio coverage of the speech. Continue reading

Department of Education Spends $333,791 on Consultants in May

Jim Rex

“Of course everyone gets a fair deal!”

The month of May came, went, and left behind a $333,791.00 tab in consultant and contractor fees for the taxpayers of South Carolina, courtesy of the Department of Education.

Thankfully this is a decrease from April, when Rex’s department spent almost $400, ooo on non-state employee “education and training services.”

Despite a steady stream of complaints from administrators about how budget cuts are forcing the Department of Education to do its work on a “bare bones” budget, the bureaucracy has managed to find enough money to continue paying out political consultants and contractors. Teachers have been cut, but spending has been maintained for former employees of political campaigns.

  • January-$296,526
  • February-$358,398
  • March-$366,996
  • April-$397,876
  • May-$333,791
  • YEAR-TO-DATE: $1.7 million to consultants and contractors

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South Carolina High School Graduation Rates

school choice south carolina

How many children drop out of school in South Carolina?”
“What is the graduation rate in South Carolina high schools?”
“How many students in OUR school district will graduate from high school?…”

(HINT: Scroll down and find out!)

It is hard to get a straight answer when it comes to questions about graduates and dropouts in South Carolina’s public schools.

A recent report indicates that in the senior class of 2008-09, only 42,947 (or 66.3% of those enrolled in 9th grade four years earlier) graduated public high school with an earned diploma. In other words, 1-in-3 students (or 122 pupils each day) dropped out, were held back, or failed to complete the full diploma requirements

Already some in the media are raising questions about the validity of so-called “statewide gains” and the wide disparity between numbers cited by Jim Rex, those reported in the Education Week report, and the figures publicly available on the US Department of Education’s website.

The State Newspaper (6/9) reported:

The on-time graduation rate reported by Education Week and the State Department of Education differ, and there’s no clear consensus on why.

The Anderson Independent Mail (6/9) reported:

…But, those [Education Week] figures are misleading, said Jim Foster, spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Education. The graduation rates in Education Week are estimates that over the years have resulted in disparities from one report to the next, he said.

The Greenwood Today (6/9) reported:

The graduation figures in the Education Week publication, seen as a national standard for K12 education policy and assessment, vary greatly from higher numbers released by the South Carolina State Department of Education.

Attention is also being drawn to that fact that South Carolina has not released district-specific graduation levels since the 2004-05 school year for the federal government’s uniform rankings. In that 2004-05 school year, the statewide graduation rate was 52.23%.

The graduation rate varied from 87% in York District 4 to 29% in Lee County School District.

Thankfully, these figures can be found in Common Core of Data section of the US DOE website.

Below is a district-by-district list of enrollment and diplomas numbers for the South Carolina public high school class of 2005 drawn from the Federally reported data (again, this is the most recent year for which detailed data -not estimates and averages- is available):

SOUTH CAROLINA STATE TOTALS

64,027 (9th Graders enrolled in 2001-2)

38,657 (12th Graders in 2004-5)

33,439 (Diplomas issued in 2004-5)

52.23% (% of 9th graders who graduated in 4 school years)

ABBEVILLE COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT

348 (9th Graders enrolled in 2001-2)

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Mixed Messages on Education from Obama

MixedMessage

Parents, especially low-income parents, have a right to be confused about how President Obama really feels about education, especially when it comes to educational choices.

During the much-publicized hunt for a proper school for the Obama children, local public schools were clearly not even remotely considered to be adequate. Instead, an exclusive-and very costly-private school was selected to meet the educational needs of the first family. Subsequently, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made sure his own children had the pick of the best schools, stating that their education was too important to jeopardize with a bad educational environment.

Now the confusion starts. Continue reading