Budget Cuts and Stimulus Monies

December 16, 2009 by  
Filed under SC Politics

In March 2009, 108 of our State Representatives voted to accept the $787 million dollar stimulus package and incorporated these monies into our operating budget for fiscal year 2010.

To this date, the SC Budget Control Board has had to cut a total of 9% (4% in Sept. 09 and 5% in Dec. 09) off of the budget which is approximately $440 million dollars.  My simple math shows me that 55% of the federal monies added to our operating budget has been cut out of the budget.

If we repeat last year with an overall cut of 15%, almost 90% of the federal stimulus monies added into the budget would be cut.

You can argue that this was not the federal monies all you want, but had the state honored Gov. Sanford’s wishes in excluding that money from the budget, for a more conservative budget, one could argue we would not be having the headlines we are seeing today.

According to WSPA, the first 4% reduction actually cut $85 Million from our education programs in the state.  Many of you may remember that our elected officials lobbying for this money said that teachers would lose jobs and schools would close had they not accepted the money.

My only question to our leaders is that if they could not survive without the monies then, how are they going to survive now?

I for one find myself in an ever delicate situation as the Spartanburg Charter School begins revising their budgets for the latest cuts. We are looking to cut an additional $36K or 5% out of our already tight budget.

The Public Charter School District (emphasis on public), which consists of a few brick and mortar schools (including SCS) and several virtual schools receives approximately $3000 per the state budget allocations. The Public Charter School District only receives funding from state sources whereas the traditional public school receives funding from federal and local sources as well.

For comparison sake, the average school district in SC receives approximately $11,000 per pupil before budget cuts and about $10,000 per pupil after the cuts.  Understand that these figures do not include transportation and other services, this is for primary education purposes.

Our leaders are claiming that they wish to reform education and provide public options, I want to ask them these questions:

  • Why are we not providing these kids with the same opportunities as their brethren across town?
  • Why can we not say as a state that every child gets $8,000 and it follows them to any public school they choose to attend?
  • What makes the students in the Fairfield School District ($15,240/pupil) more special than those in the Dillon 3 School District ($7,865/pupil) or the Charter School District for that matter($3000/pupil)?

If we are going to reform education, we must ensure that our students are equally funded.  It will also require our leadership to make hard decisions, including targeted spending reductions to non-essential services instead of broad brush strokes that drains the entire state.

SC State Budget Education Provisions

Parents, Watchdogs Question Luxurious Educational Conference

June 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Press Release

Contact: Neil Mellen
Communications Director
South Carolinians for Responsible Government (SCRG)

Deep budgets cuts have forced schools to furlough, even fire, hundreds of classroom teachers.

That’s what frustrated parents of public school children across South Carolina have been told throughout the last eight months.

From the first signs of sinking state revenues in the fall of 2008, through to the week after lawmakers forced Governor Sanford’s hand and secured the full portion of federal stimulus funding, public education officials have insisted student achievement would suffer from tighten budgets

Now many of the local superintendents who led the fight for higher state and federal funding are drawing fire for their own lavish spending.

An elaborate six-day administrators conference began Sunday at the luxurious Kingston Plantation resort in Myrtle Beach. Critics are questioning how South Carolina’s Association of School Administrators (SCASA), a professional group funded through taxpayer-subsidized fees, benefits and contracts, can afford plush accommodations at the four-star hotel.

Details of the conference posted at the SCASA website include links to lavish hotel menus with filet mignon and lobster tail dinner entrees. Among the scheduled speakers are embattled Superintendent Thomas White of Spartanburg District Seven, who earlier in the year used public funds to pay for a membership in an elite private country club, and State Superintendent Jim Rex, who called under-performing high schools “dropout factories” at a speech in May. Other speakers represent private firms enjoying high dollar consulting and service contracts with public school districts and the State Department of Education.

The meeting, a series of events headlined by a “Leadership Institute,” has been condemned by watchdog groups for years, but the recent publicity of tightened school budgets makes the 2009 conference particularly controversial.

“With 73,000 students trapped in failing public schools and 122 high school students dropping out each day, we need to focus our precious public resources on teacher salaries and classroom supplies, not on pampering and retreats for bureaucrats,” remarked Randy Page, President of South Carolinas for Responsible Government.

SCASA has even set up a closed circuit TV feed so that superintendents and other educational bureaucrats can “participate” from their rooms at the hotel without actually walking down to the conference center.

Scrutiny of the conference is also bringing attention to the political activities of SCASA in and around the Statehouse in Columbia. The group, whose number one stated organizational objective is to “be recognized as the leading force for education” in the State, hires professional political lobbyists to influence the policy decisions of legislators. Members have played a major role in calling for higher educational spending with lower levels of accountability and oversight.

“SCASA is a group of high salaried public officials,” continued Randy Page, noting that most superintendents enjoy compensation packages well over $100,000.00 per year. “They ought not use public money to lobby lawmakers and certainly not use public money for indulgent vacations disguised as professional development.”