a Republican, I now see that we have elected a governor who
has a record of getting nothing done. He continues to follow
Name withheld upon request, Georgetown, S.C. More.
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2004 election starts
early over education
SC Statehouse Report
JUNE 1, 2003 - - For all intents and purposes, the election season
of 2004 started Thursday when the S.C. House approved a $5 billion
budget that whacked millions of dollars from public education.
Even though the compromise budget plan stalled in the Senate and
lawmakers will have to make some modification in the coming week,
Democrats now have a huge hammer to wield against Republicans for
the first time in years.
SC Rep. Joel Lourie, D-Columbia, said the 72-37 House vote to approve
the compromise budget sent a clear message "that the majority
of our Legislature is not committed to public education
it comes time to step up to the plate and make the tough decisions,
the majority in this body are running from their responsibility."
Added former House Minority Leader Doug Jennings, D-Bennettsville,
"Part of the revitalization of the Democratic Party is not
only the early presidential primary but also some of the decisions
made by the majority party."
But Republicans say South Carolina voters will perceive this year's
budget crisis differently at the polls.
Rep. Converse Chellis, R-Summerville, said Republican leaders tried
to safeguard education during budget difficulties over the last
"We worked hard not to touch it over the three-year period,"
he said. "It's the last thing we wanted to touch, but at some
point we got to that part of the apple in the tree and had to shave
State GOP Chairman Katon Dawson said South Carolinians understand
it's important for the state to live within its means, especially
in a time of economic crisis.
"It is the responsibility of elected officials to spend what
we have and spend it adequately and responsibly," Dawson said.
"I think that's what they [Republican leaders] are doing."
He added that raising taxes in a time of economic crisis wouldn't
fly because it wasn't right. Furthermore, he indicated Republicans
could counter any 2004 campaign bullets fired by Democrats that
Republicans opposed public education with advertising that Democrats
wanted to raise taxes.
"Sure they have a sledge hammer, but there's a good chance
we're going to turn around and beat their brains with it."
Whatever happens politically in 17 months, the results of this
year's decision to cut the education budget are clear:
- Of the possible 6,000 teachers who faced layoffs unless local
communities raised property taxes, drained emergency funds or
cut other expenses, more than 2,000 teaching positions and 300
administrative positions have already been eliminated across the
state, according to the State Department of Education.
- Services, particularly remedial services such as summer school
or after-school programs, have been eliminated or greatly reduced
throughout South Carolina.
- Districts have reduced or eliminated teacher training, foreign
language training, programs for gifted students and guidance services.
- They have frozen school technology initiatives and postponed
much-needed building maintenance. Some have cut athletic programs;
others will make students pay fees to play high school sports.
- Class sizes will rise.
Bottom line: the rubber met the road this year with education spending.
Voters will have a clear chance at the polls in November 2004 to
speak out whether they preferred state leaders to raise taxes some,
such as a proposal by Lourie to increase the sales tax a half cent
to fully fund education, or cut schools to 1996 funding levels.
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