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ISSUE 12.24
Jun. 14, 2013

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Index

News :
Studies give different views of S.C. education
Legislative Agenda :
Break out the cigars
Commentary :
A new fee to bring us closer together?
Spotlight :
S.C. Senate Democratic Caucus
My Turn :
Helping homeowners avoid foreclosure
Feedback :
A new no-no to no tax pledges?
Scorecard :
From Moore, Haley to a big ooops
Stegelin :
Served up
Megaphone :
The good, the bad and the ugly
Tally Sheet :
Search S.C. legislative bills
Encyclopedia :
Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service

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EDITOR'S NOTE

Correction

The news story in last week's issue incorrectly reported that a restructuring bill to create a new Department of Administration died until next session.  The bill is in conference committee and may be considered in the coming week.  See the correction that was added to the story after publication.  We apologize for the error.

NUMBER OF THE WEEK

48 or 49

Take your pick. Both aren’t good. The state is ranked third from the bottom in home accessibility to computers.  And South Carolina is second from the bottom in graduation rate, according to a metric that is questioned in the news story below as a misleading gauge of S.C.’s education system.

MEGAPHONE

The good, the bad and the ugly

“Mr. Sanford is among the most prescient and dauntless politicians now in office, and he is almost alone in both grasping the implications of untrammeled deficit spending and having the pluck to stand against it. Yet he is also a deeply self-absorbed man, instinctively ill-humored and petty, relentless in the pursuit of glory and apt to equate the greater good with whatever benefits his reputation.”

-- South Carolina's Barton Swaim in a June 12 review in The Wall Street Journal of “Second Chance: The Mark Sanford Story.”

TALLY SHEET

Search S.C. legislative bills

No new bills will be introduced until the end of the year when pre-filing starts for the 2014 session.  Until then, click any of the links below to check what was filed in the current session.

ENCYCLOPEDIA

Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service

The Cooperative Extension Service was created on May 8, 1914, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Lever Act, legislation coauthored by South Carolina congressman Asbury F. Lever. The act ended the rivalry between state agriculture commissioners and land grant colleges over the administration of extension work. In its place, Smith-Lever created a partnership of federal, state and local governments that worked to improve the quality of rural life by disseminating the latest information to farmers, homemakers and communities.

The South Carolina General Assembly accepted Smith-Lever by a joint resolution approved by the governor on February 12, 1915, which designated the Clemson Agricultural and Mechanical College as the state agency for agricultural extension work. The first efforts in South Carolina actually took place in 1906 with support from the federal government, the General Education Board of the Rockefeller Foundation, and by the state through Clemson.

In 1907 Seaman Knapp, head of extension work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), came to South Carolina and appointed two district agents and five county agents. W. W. Long, who came to Clemson from the USDA in 1913 to head up extension work, was the first director under the Smith-Lever Act. Along with Edith Parrott, state home demonstration agent, Long built Cooperative Extension Service work around a nucleus of workers appointed during the previous seven years. Agents relied heavily on teaching techniques developed by Knapp, who came to be known as the father of agricultural demonstration work. He believed that a demonstration farm using Cooperative Extension Service recommendations would persuade others to follow the same practices.

Under the same philosophy, the Cooperative Extension Service evolved as the public's information needs changed. By the start of the twenty-first century, efforts focused more on families and youth, while still maintaining a strong agricultural base and its traditional emphasis on economic and community development, environmental issues, food safety and nutrition.

Clemson's Cooperative Extension Service sponsors the 4-H program, which reaches more than 104,000 South Carolina youths through school and community programs, special-interest clubs, and camping. Offices are located in all 46 counties, staffed by 165 county agents plus support personnel and backed by seventy specialists stationed on the Clemson University campus and at Research and Education Centers at Charleston, Blackville, Florence and in Richland County.

Staff members are trained in disciplines such as agronomy, animal science, entomology, forestry, plant pathology, economics, and food and nutrition. Personnel serve as an unbiased source of information for families, agricultural and forestry producers, and food industry professionals, much of it developed at Clemson's South Carolina Agriculture and Forestry Research System.

Excerpted from the entry by Thomas W. Lollis. To read more about this or 2,000 other entries about South Carolina, check out The South Carolina Encyclopedia by USC Press. (Information used by permission.)

PALMETTO PRIORITIES

Palmetto Priorities Statehouse Report encourages state leaders to develop and implement Palmetto Priorities involving several issues to make the state better a better place. Click the link to learn more about our suggestions for bipartisan policy objectives.

Here is a summary of our Palmetto Priorities:

CORRECTIONS: Reduce the prison population by 25 percent by 2020.

EDUCATION: Cut the state's dropout rate in half by 2020.

ELECTIONS: Increase voter registration to 75 percent by 2015.

ENVIRONMENT: Adopt a state energy policy that requires energy producers to generate 20 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020.

ETHICS: Overhaul state ethics laws.

HEALTH CARE: Ensure affordable and accessible health care.

JOBS: Develop a Cabinet-level post to add, retain 10,000 small business jobs per year.

POLITICS: Have a vigorous two- or multi-party political system of governance.

ROADS: Strengthen all bridges and upgrade state roads by 2015.

SAFETY: Cut the state's violent crime rate by one-third by 2016.

TAX REFORM: Remove outdated special interest sales tax exemptions as part of an overall reform of the state's tax structure to be completed by 2014.

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News

Studies give different views of S.C. education

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

JUNE 14, 2013 -- A new study that lists South Carolina as having the nation’s second-lowest high school graduation rate might just show you can’t judge a book by its cover, education experts suggest.

Some  61.5 percent of South Carolina’s high school students graduated in 2010 from high school, according to the Diploma Counts 2013 study by Education Week magazine based 2010 data. That rate that is lower than every state other than New Mexico. The national rate, according to the report, is 74.7 percent. Over the last 10 years, South Carolina has increased its graduation rate by 13.1 percent, compared to the national average increase of 7.9 percent, according to the study.

But some question the Diploma Counts 2013 study because it calculates the graduation rate differently than the uniform measure used by states when reporting to the U.S. Department of Education. Using that uniform methodology, South Carolina’s 2011 graduation rate was 74 percent, or tied for 37th out of 48 states and territories. 

Jo Anne Anderson, former head of the S.C. Education Oversight Commission, said the Diploma Counts study bases its graduation rate on just one factor -- promotion from one grade to the next. The study is helpful to a degree because “this informs us about challenges in the system, most notably the 20 percent or more of 9th graders who are repeating that grade,” she said.

But no state or school districts use the “cumulative promotion index” calculation offered in Diploma Counts, said S.C. Department of Education spokesman Jay W. Ragley. He added the Diploma Counts methodology seemed to have at least two limitations -- it doesn’t account for student transfers and it apparently counts early graduates as dropouts because of the way it tracks students. 

Education Week says its graduation rate calculation “represents the high school experience as a process rather than a single event, capturing the four key steps a student must take in order to graduate: three grade-to-grade promotions (9 to 10, 10 to 11, and 11 to 12) and ultimately earning a diploma (grade 12 to graduation). Each of these individual components corresponds to a grade-promotion ratio.”

Another Education Week study shows S.C. in middle

A different, broader study by Education Week this year found South Carolina’s public K-12 system to be ranked in the middle of states.

According to Quality Counts 2013, South Carolina ranks 26
th in the nation with an overall grade of C+ in a combination of six different measures. Instead of just one metric used in the magazine’s graduation report, the Quality Counts study amalgamates data on school finance, teacher development, student achievement, assessments and more.

“Neither statistic is acceptable,” Anderson said of rankings from the Diploma Counts and Quality Counts studies. “Each tells us that too many young people are not being served by our educational system. 

“When a student drops out, all of us lose.  South Carolina must garner the political and educational will to address the quality of young people’s lives and how the schools engage them in meaningful experiences.    The energies spent avoiding resolution of differences over school finance and governance and arguments over how inadequate funding  is spent deprive every South Carolinian of the future we deserve.”

Ragley said the Quality Counts study also had problems because of how it weighed the six indicators. For example, he said it weighed data on the number of nationally board-certified teachers (we rank first nationally) equal to student performance (we rank 45th). 

“The Quality Counts report weighs inputs [for] 83 percent of a state’s score (five of six indices are input measures) and one output index [for] 17 percent (the student achievement index),” Ragley said “This is contra to what [state Superintendent Mick] Dr. Zais has consistently argued during his tenure. Dr. Zais has said that outputs (example: student learning outcomes) matter more than inputs (example: number of National Board Certified teachers).”

NOTE:  Editor Bill Davis will be back next week. 
Legislative Agenda

Break out the cigars

Legislators return Tuesday for a special three-day “sine die” session to hammer out a compromise and vote on a state budget. They also are also expected to take up other issues, such as restructuring the state Budget and Control Board into a new Department of Administration, during the special session.

There will be several meetings of conference committees, but few were listed on the legislature’s Web site at the time of publication.

  • Bond review: The Joint Bond Review Committee will meet 3:30 p.m. June 17 to discuss $103 million in state construction projects. More.
Commentary

A new fee to bring us closer together?

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

JUNE 14, 2013 -- Everybody who lives in South Carolina pays sales taxes. Everybody, directly or indirectly, pays property taxes. But income taxes -- that other sturdy leg of the state’s tax portfolio? Lots of people don’t pay income taxes.

Most of them don’t make enough money. Or they make enough to be able to figure a way around it through the dozens of exemptions and tax credits that are available.

According to the state Department of Revenue, some 884,516 individual income tax filers -- some 43.1 percent of those who filed -- paid absolutely no state income taxes in 2010. Another 39,230 filers paid $25 or less.

In lots of ways, it just doesn’t seem fair, especially since everyone benefits from services provided by state government. Seems like everybody ought to pay just a little bit so that they will have some “scratch” in the game.

So here’s a proposition that’s bound to cause some double-takes: What if the state added a new $25 per year fee for every income tax return that’s filed? Two caveats: If you pay more than $25 a year in income tax, you wouldn’t have to pay the fee. And if you pay between zero and $25, you would have to pay the difference until you reach $25.

Instituting such a filing fee would generate more than $22 million a year -- more than enough to pay for the annual cost of SCETV or the state library system or a whole bunch of new school buses. But beyond the revenue, would a new fee be worth it?

The left-wingers who still remain in the state might squawk that requiring a fee from everybody would make the income tax less fair and penalize people who pay nothing. And they would be right. Requiring everybody to pay a little in income tax would shift the nature of income tax, which was originally started as a “progressive tax” (not a political term, but an economic one) to require those who earn more to pay more to balance the regressive nature of things like sales taxes, which take away a larger share of the poor’s disposable income. 

And they would also be right in observing that the poor already pay a larger share of a lot of things in the state budget because of all of the fees associated with the criminal justice system, which the poor get involved with disproportionately.

But come on, shouldn’t everybody be able to find a way to pay just $2 a month for state-funded services that they receive? 

Just as left-wingers might squawk a little about this notion, right-wingers might be tempted to grin and think things like, “It’s about time” or “Good idea. ‘They’ should be paying something.”

Frankly, this kind of thinking is short-sighted. It would continue to foment the seeds of division -- “us” versus “them.” Democrats against Republicans, the poor versus the rich, black against white, and on and on.

Remember if everybody pays a little bit, it will be a little harder to ignore people who have been ignored by policymakers for far too long. It will be a little harder for right-wingers to play the polarizing politics of “us” and “them.” 

So think longer-term about what this new fee could do. It could become easier to feel and observe that “we’re all in this together,” which might make it easier to work together on our multitude of problems, develop a statewide agenda and implement it.

The notion of having everybody pay an income tax filing fee might still have some kinks in it. But in the long run, it just might be a way to reduce the combative, partisan nature of politics at the Statehouse. When everybody has a little scratch in the game, we might work more like a team of South Carolinians toward common goals, not a discombobulated group of partisan hacks trying to score points with every policy volley.

Andy Brack is publisher of Statehouse ReportYou can reach Brack at: brack@statehousereport.com.

Spotlight

S.C. Senate Democratic Caucus

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost. This week's spotlighted underwriter is the S.C. Senate Democratic Caucus. Organized almost 25 years ago, the Caucus has played an important role in many of the historic issues facing our state. As a vibrant minority party in the Senate, its role is to represent our constituents and present viable alternatives on critical issues. The SC Senate Democratic Caucus remains a unique place for this to occur in our policy process. Learn more about the Caucus at: www.scsenatedems.org.

My Turn

Helping homeowners avoid foreclosure

By VALARIE M. WILLIAMS
Executive Director
South Carolina State Housing Finance and Development Authority
Special to Statehouse Report

JUNE 14, 2013 -- Retirement nest eggs, children’s college funds, rainy day savings, valuable equity in a home -- many South Carolinians have worked their entire adult lives to build these critical financial safety nets. But due to the lingering effects of the recession, most notably continued unemployment and underemployment, many hardworking people who are responsible homeowners and have been for years are concerned about paying their mortgages and are often using every bit of savings to try and keep their homes.

Fortunately in South Carolina, we don’t believe that unforeseen, catastrophic economic events that are beyond a homeowner’s control should cost them their homes or savings. Many of these homeowners --  our friends, neighbors and even families -- could be eligible for financial assistance through the South Carolina Homeownership and Employment Lending Program (SC HELP).

Launched in early 2011, SC HELP is a foreclosure prevention program backed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the S.C. State Housing Finance and Development Authority. SC HELP has already assisted over 5,000 homeowners in our state, helping to keep their mortgages from slipping into default or foreclosure. Financial aid through SC HELP has provided a lifeline for our state’s families, communities and economy.

June is National Homeownership Month and it’s important to understand that the effects of widespread foreclosure are far-reaching: Families are stressed and displaced; homes are left vacant, potentially resulting in increases in crime and a devaluing of surrounding homes; tax revenues used to support our schools and critical services are negatively impacted.

It is imperative that we, as citizens of South Carolina, support the work SC HELP is doing to slow the tide of preventable foreclosures in our state. Support begins with understanding who qualifies and what kind of assistance is available through the program.

In order to apply, homeowners must be faced with at least one of the following qualifying hardships:

  • Unemployment
  • Underemployment
  • Reduction of income for self-employed
  • Death of a spouse            
  • Catastrophic medical expenses
  • Divorce

Available assistance includes:

  • Reinstatement Assistance: Helps to pay arrearages and bring the loan current.

  • Monthly Payment Assistance: Assists homeowners with monthly payments for a period of time while they seek employment and return to self-sustainability.

  • Transition Assistance:  Provides funding to assist families as they transition from homeownership in cases where the mortgage cannot be salvaged and the homeowner is able to negotiate a short sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure.

If a neighbor, co-worker, employee or even a family member is facing one of these hardships and struggling to keep up with their mortgage, it is imperative that they immediately begin the SC HELP application process. Lenders begin the foreclosure process quickly and SC HELP can most benefit homeowners who seek assistance before the foreclosure process begins. While SC HELP cannot help everyone, even homeowners who don’t qualify for funds through the program can find local resources, agencies, assistance and tools for their individual situations at SCHELP.gov.

Responsible homeowners all over South Carolina have worked hard all of their lives to support their families, and in turn, SC HELP is available to provide eligible homeowners with assistance that keeps families in homes and neighborhoods, communities and savings accounts intact.

  • For more information or to start an application, go to SCHELP.gov. Homeowners without Internet access may call toll free at 1-855-435-7472.
Feedback

A new no-no to no tax pledges?

To the editor:

Noted your column [6/7: “Legislature shortchanges South Carolina."] Perhaps one way to get attention is to start a fundraising effort to support legislators who will not sign no tax pledges, and seek to raise revenue through reasonable tax increases and educate citizens about the real issues facing South Carolina and the nation. 

Let me suggest that we create a bumper sticker for sale that says, "Re-elect No One."

-- William C. Heitsman, Darlington, S.C.

Sales taxes aren’t such a bad thing

To the editor:

Exactly what in the inherent unfairness of existing sales takes?  [6/7: “Legislature shortchanges South Carolina."Other than applying to all purchases, without limits or caps, how could a system which demands something from everybody be unfair (whatever that means)?  Unless you seek a society where only a minority are taxpayers support the rest, this makes no sense to me.  But don’t worry, were are about there now.

The most important advantage of sales taxes is there in no cheating  and everybody pays proportionately, even those employed in the black market economy.  No fraud and abuse when taxes are collect at point of sale. 

-- Rick Saunders, Charleston, S.C.

Publisher’s note: What economists strive for is a BALANCED tax system in which there are different kinds of taxes that balance out the bad parts with each other.   By placing more emphasis on sales taxes, the system makes it tougher on the poor. See income tax discussion above.  Think about how government is shortchanged when sales go down.

Scorecard

From Moore, Haley to a big ooops

Moore. Hats off to new SC GOP chair Matt Moore, who was picked to take over when former chair Chad Connelly resigned to take a new job. More.

Haley. Congrats to Gov. Nikki Haley for donating almost half of her $284,000 family income (thanks to book sales) to charity in 2012. More. She also was cleared of a longstanding ethics complaint. And more.

Pensions. The state pension portfolio is poised to grow more than 12 percent -- about five points more than the legislature assumes for the system to remain solvent. More.

Grimsley. It’s sad news to hear of the passing of longtime Citadel leader and former president James Grimsley. General, rest in peace. More.

Ooops. The state Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services has a slew of violations in a set of 36 findings in a 62-page report by the Legislative Audit Council. Time to get it together. More.

TB outbreak. Many say a tuberculosis outbreak in Greenwood County could have been avoided. More.

Vouchers. The ugly specter of school vouchers is coming up in state budget talks. And to add to the vouchermania is the new appearance of the conservative-backed StudentsFirst movement in South Carolina.
Stegelin

Served up


RECENT STEGELIN: 6/7 | 5/31 | 5/24 | 5/17
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Senior Editor: Bill Davis
Contributing Photographer: Michael Kaynard

Phone: 843.670.3996

© 2002 - 2018 , Statehouse Report LLC. Statehouse Report is published every Friday by Statehouse Report LLC, PO Box 22261, Charleston, SC 29413.
Excerpts from The South Carolina Encyclopedia are published with permission and copyrighted 2006 by the Humanities Council SC. Excerpts were edited by Walter Edgar and published by the University of South Carolina Press. Statehouse Report has partnered with USC Press to provide readers with this interesting weekly historical excerpt about the state. Republication is not allowed. For additional information about Statehouse Report, including information on underwriting, go to http://www.statehousereport.com/.