Sunday, April 23, 2006
earlier is better
SC Statehouse Report
23, 2006 - - If you're sick, you probably go to a doctor for
a professional opinion and follow his advice. If you're really
sick, you might get a second opinion.
But you don't go around to dozens of doctors seeking the
opinion you're looking for. That's just not smart. In the
meantime, you get sicker.
With South Carolina's public education system, it sometimes
feels like the lawmakers who make decisions on education don't
listen to the pros - - people who teach every day and who
deal with educational challenges every hour. Instead, they
keep looking for political solutions they like - - vouchers,
charter schools, uniforms, more discipline, later start dates
But a new ongoing study by Furman University's Riley Institute
is powerful evidence that lawmakers need to listen more to
the people who are involved daily with education.
According to the Furman study, 49 out of 50 South Carolina
superintendents agree with this statement: "The sooner
a student gets in a structured education program, the more
likely that student will stay in school and succeed."
These superintendents believe it is important or essential
for South Carolina to offer full-day kindergarten programs
and early childhood education programs for 3- and 4-year-olds.
Last year, state lawmakers were on pins and needles about
a pending decision in a school equity lawsuit brought by eight
poor school districts that said they weren't getting their
fair share of school resources to provide a decent education
to students. After a highly visible trial of more than 100
days, lawmakers expected a ruling that would force them to
do what should have been done years ago - - fund poor school
districts at a higher level so they can offer better tools
to the mostly rural student population.
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Legislators dodged the bullet at the end of 2005 after state
Judge Thomas Cooper ruled the state needed to pay for early
childhood education for kids in poverty, but didn't give a
monetary remedy to the decision. Despite crumbling schools
and districts that need better teachers, Cooper also surprised
many by ruling the state provided safe facilities and "minimally
Bottom line: Instead of having to come up with a billion
dollars to right past public education wrongs, Cooper's ruling
kept most things about the same and lawmakers really didn't
have to do much at all.
Sure, there was some talk about "doing the right thing"
for poor students. But look at what's happened:
- The state has $925 million in "new" money that
it is considering as part of the $6.5 billion state budget.
Of that, $383 million is new recurring revenue and $426
million in surplus revenue.
- In an amazing display of political arrogance or brazen
blindness, the House approved a budget that included $6
million - - yes, a whopping $6 million - - for a pilot project
for 4-year-old kindergarten in a handful of poor districts.
Talk about ignoring a festering problem.
- The Senate, now considering the budget, says it can "find"
$24 million to boost 4-K programs, which led a House committee
to agree the amount could help 11,361 poor children in 36
Earth to legislators: There are about 56,000 students in
the state who could benefit from a solid 4-K program. About
31,000 of them are considered "at risk;" two-thirds
of those aren't in any kind of 4-K program.
To fund a program for all 4-year-olds and really do the right
thing, the state would spend about $150 million a year. To
fund a program for just those kids at risk who aren't in existing
programs, as called for in March by the state Education Oversight
Committee, the state would have to spend up to $85 million
annually in teaching and accountability programs.
South Carolina has limped along for years with inadequate
funding for great public schools throughout the state. Instead
of continuing the game of "getting by" and breathing
a sigh of relief when Judge Cooper didn't order a billion
dollars of changes, the state needs to be proactive by fully
funding 4-K education. Then, lawmakers need to work on comprehensive
It's time to listen to professionals, such as the superintendents
in the Furman study. It's time to really invest in South Carolina's
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
best way to get South Carolina news is to augment your morning
paper and TV show with SC Clips, a daily executive
news summary compiled from more than 30 state newspaper and
TV sources. It's delivered every business day and is packed
with news of statewide impact, politics, business and more.
Subscriptions are affordable at $30 per month -- and less
for business subscribers. More: SC
a connection, Butch
Robbins, Hilton Head Island, SC
- 2/24: Block the
sale of national forest land, Elizabeth Bailey, Darlington
Ahead on local
A look at how you often learn first about things in SC Statehouse
"For years, the tension between
local and state elected officials has simmered over
many issues, such as the state not funding all of its
edicts to the counties and/or cities. Locals have resented
the fact that the General Assembly has never completely
fulfilled the constitutional "home rule'' provisions,
but is already planning to ask voters to change "home
rule'' to "state rule'' on such areas as public
-- Editor Jerry C. Ausband
"House bill 4503 would require
county and municipal government to pay landowners if
the zoning decisions they make prevent landowners from
obtaining the full speculative value of their property.
Thus, if a coastal community zoned to prevent 10-story
hotels or other communities zoned to prevent industrial
facilities or hog farms next to homes, they would have
to pay off the developers using our tax dollars."
-- Charleston School of Law Prof.
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political news items from the past week:
Sanford. Gov. Mark Sanford has requested, as allowed
by the federal government, that South Carolina's roadless
national forests be spared from new roads and commercial logging.
Good for him. This state has only 2% of the state's national
forests that are roadless, and that seems small enough to
skip. Nearly 7,600 acres of 600,000 acres of national forests
are roadless. The governor is right: Keep 'em natural.
Senators. Whether to agree with the senators , here
are some who deserve plaudits for their efforts on the Senate
floor and off on property tax reform bills and amendments:
Chip Campsen, R-Charleston; Larry Grooms, R-Bonneau; Wes Hayes,
R-York; Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg; Jake Knotts, R-Lexington;
and Jim Ritchie, R-Spartanburg. None of them won every round,
but all voiced good ideas that showed responsiveness and ability.
We'd bet Sen. Knotts will be surprised to find himself in
SCRG. Citizen involvement in politics is nothing to
be denigrated, as with the South Carolinians for Responsible
Government that is opposing a few incumbent representatives
who did not vote for school choice legislation last year.
However, when that group, or any other group, hides behind
closed doors and refuses to give public access to its gifts,
its donors and its overall doings, then it has no real right
in the state's otherwise wide open political system. On Friday,
the group had the audacity to say it would ignore state ethics
laws, according to The
Post and Courier.
Bust on cig tax. The House Ways and Means Committee
has apparently killed an increase in the cigarette tax up
to 42 cents in two years. And why? Well, it's a small group
that would be affected, the committee was told, but the committee
also heard that cigarette illnesses inflict $545 per household
on state and federal dollars. The tax would have gone to health
and prevention funds, which seem right, not wrong. Of course,
the Senate could still, we think, use a cigarette tax to amend
the House's budget, now on the other side of the Statehouse.
Marsh islands. A House committee has shafted major
state protection against development on the state's environmentally
sensitive 3,500 marsh islands. The House Agriculture, Natural
Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee perhaps proved
why it should be dissected, leaving natural resources and
the environment to another group. After all, the committee
decided against major protection without letting the full
House vote, since the protection was contained in a DHEC regulation
that the committee could alone decide upon.
Stirring the pot. It's not fully clear who is stirring
the pot over the Criminal Justice Academy training program.
But someone is, probably is an effort to gain political power.
And the Ways and Means Committee has sent a bill to jerk the
academy away from the Department of Public Safety, where it
was restructured. The folks pushing the move ought to at least
have the fortitude to cite chapter and verse on why it should
move, or, honey, hush.
How you can subscribe to the full edition
of the report
The above version of S.C. Statehouse Report is the
free edition. Our paid version, which costs about $100 per
month, offer a weekly legislative forecast packed with information
that can keep you and your business on the cutting edge.
Notes veteran lawmaker Sen. Glenn McConnell: "Statehouse
Report gives an inside practical report of weekly problems
with and progress of legislation. It reviews the whole landscape."
In each issue of Statehouse Report, you'll get:
- Hot issue
-- an early peek at weekly commentary on something really
big. Last year, we continually beat other news organizations
in finding major trends in issues, from teacher and budget
cuts to wetlands proposals.
- Agenda -- a weekly forecast of
the coming week's floor agenda
- Radar Screen -- a behind-the-scenes
look at what's really going on in the General Assembly
- McLemore's World -- an early view
of our respected cartoonist Bill McLemore.
- Tally Sheet -- a weekly review
of all of the new bills introduced in the legislature in
- Blogroll -- a weekly summary of
the best of South Carolina political blogs.
- Scorecard -- A Thumbs Up and Thumbs
Down of major political/policy events for the week.
- Calendar -- a weekly list of major
meetings for the House, Senate and state agencies.
- Megaphone -- a quote of the week
that you'll find illuminating.
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