more education money means cuts
(Week of June 4, 2002)
MAY 31, 2002 - - Everybody's for education, right?
Then consider this: the South Carolina General Assembly this year
boosted total spending for education to higher levels than ever
before, but basic student funding is lower than last year.
It's confusing and complex, but more money in the
budget this year doesn't mean all students will get more in the
On one hand, the General Assembly appropriated
more than $250 million from lottery revenues to new spending on
everything from college scholarships, endowed professorships, technology
improvements, K-12 programs for low-performing schools, school buses,
and new programs for math, science and social studies in challenged
On the other hand, the slumping economy affected
agencies throughout state government - including education. Mid-year
K-12 education cuts totaled $160 million. In the new state budget,
lawmakers didn't fully restore funding cuts and shifted some new
monies to programs to pay good teachers more money, help summer
school costs and buy some new buses.
Bottom line: the state's base student cost of $2,073
- the funding building block of state education - will drop by $40
to $2,033 in the new state budget.
Thus, more money (lottery revenues plus shifted
priorities for new non-lottery revenues) means a cut to basic education
funding next year in South Carolina.
This year, budget cuts had a significant impact
in South Carolina's classrooms, according to Education Department
officials. In many districts, teaching positions got cut directly
or through attrition. Schools adjusted thermostats to save energy.
Several curtailed summer school programs. Others eliminated technology
budgets. And many instituted hiring freezes and banned out-of-county
In Horry County, for example, the school district
cut more than 110 positions, including teachers, administrators,
assistant principals, staff and aides. Laurens County's District
56 won't offer summer school or renew contracts for arts teachers
next year. In Florence 3, administrators cut teacher supplements
for extracurricular activities. Sumter District 2 eliminated 53
teaching positions through attrition and cut varsity sports teams
in swimming, tennis and golf.
Next year with base student funding slightly lower,
times will be tight again - even though there are millions in lottery
revenues. Because of lower per student funding from the state, local
districts will have to make new cuts, continue austerity measures
or generate new revenues. And to add to problems, there could be
even more budget cuts in October depending on how the economy does,
state education officials say.
But all of the news isn't bad. Here's a quick look
at who wins and loses in education:
Technical college students: They'll be able
to get grants to cover up to 70 percent of their tuition.
Four-year college students: Good students
and their parents really win. More than $50 million in lottery revenues
goes to scholarships. But average students won't qualify and face
tuition increases of 8 to 20 percent, according to various reports.
K-12 students: Most students will see few
improvements and some will learn in classrooms with more students.
But kids in low-performing schools will have more teachers and be
able to take part in specialized math, science and social studies
Teachers: Good teachers can qualify for
up to $7,500 more per year if they're nationally certified. All
teachers get a slight pay raise.