may lose big with state budget
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report
your feedback. If you'd like to respond to something in SC
Statehouse Report, please send us an e-mail. We reserve
the right to edit for length and clarity. One submission allowed
per month. Please keep your comment to 250 words or less:
APRIL 6, 2003 - - An average of six teachers per school - - or
6,663 teachers in the state's K-12 instructional staff - - may lose
their jobs if the House-passed state budget becomes law.
And that, state Education Department officials say, is a conservative
estimate unless the state provides relief for an education cut of
more than $217 million since last year's appropriation.
Without help, about the only ways school district can stave off
mass layoffs are to raise local taxes or use reserve funds. But
most districts, still reeling from multiple cuts over the last two
years, don't have much left in reserve.
"This year, it's all subtract, and no add," one administrator
The House budget whacked the funding building block for education,
called "base student cost," for the state's 650,000 students
from $2,033 this year to $1,643.
Since the large majority of most education budgets are teacher
salary costs paid by the state, the funding loss is critical and
likely will affect the biggest cost category - - teachers.
Democratic House members cried during the budget floor debate a
few weeks back that cutting the per-student cost showed South Carolina,
the state generally at the bottom of the education totem pole, no
longer valued education as a priority.
But House GOP leaders say that's nonsense because since Republicans
took control of the House eight years ago, it has directed more
money to education than Democrats did in the previous eight years.
"This year, we have a tough budget year and all of a sudden,
we're not prioritizing," said House Speaker Pro Tem Doug Smith,
R-Spartanburg. "That's absurd."
Beyond the political rhetoric, any slash to base student cost is
particularly important these days because local school administrators
are working on their district budgets for local school boards. In
general, they have to assume that base student costs will be $1,643
per year, due to the House's action.
In turn, that means more headlines across the state will highlight
how schools are running out of money and how they plan to deal with
it. Here are a few examples from stories over the last couple of
- In Berkeley County, up to 100 teachers and 75 support staff
may be cut, taxes may go up $58 per $100,000 value on a home and
all school employees may be furloughed five unpaid days.
- Beaufort County educators are considering increasing classroom
size, reduced summer school offerings and fewer English tutors.
- Georgetown County, which is facing a $6.5 million shortfall
next year, may cut 15 teacher positions and is considering a tax
- Orangeburg school administrators don't expect direct teacher
layoffs, but say some positions may be eliminated through attrition.
- More than 200 teachers, parents and principals turned out Tuesday
at a feisty Charleston County School Board meeting with signs
that said, "We cannot do more with less."
- Horry County school board members voted this week to raise taxes
by 5.5 mills to generate $5.3 million so it didn't have to cut
teachers or increase class size.
Unless something happens quickly, the news isn't going to get any
better. In the end, students will be hurt. Recent advances in education
will become a thing of the past and we'll solidify our position
at the bottom.
This year because SC House members are unwilling to fund education
at current levels, they have shifted the problem to local school
boards to solve. Essentially, House members have created an unfunded
mandate for school boards, which are under the gun to respond to
increased educational expectations created by the state.
It's all part of a continuing funding shift that started a few
years back when states got burdened with unfunded mandates to pay
for things the federal government didn't want to fund. Now the state
has caught on and is shifting the burden to local governments.
Learn more about Statehouse Report