Aid Up, Choice Out In Legislative Session
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2004 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
At least there were no pigs this year.
South Carolina lawmakers passed the largest increase in K-12 state aid in four years, while defying Gov. Mark Sanford’s plans for large-scale school choice and an expansion of charter schools.
Strained relations between the Republican governor and leading lawmakers were evident in Mr. Sanford’s 163 vetoes and 153 overrides by the legislature on budget issues alone this year. Gov. Sanford, however, did not repeat last year’s stunt in which he carried live pigs into the legislative chambers to protest lawmakers’ “pork” in the state budget.
The Republican-controlled legislature approved a $190 million raise in K-12 spending, bringing the total to about $2.8 billion for fiscal 2006, for a 7.4 percent increase. The budget includes money for a modest, 1.7 percent teacher-pay raise, which school districts can supplement with local money, according to the South Carolina Department of Education. Other state employees will receive a 4 percent raise.
Despite being from the governor’s own political party, legislative leaders again resisted many of Mr. Sanford’s top policy proposals, including his highly touted Put Parents in Charge Act, which would have provided tuition tax credits for families who send their children to private schools. Gov. Sanford also wanted corporate-tax-credit scholarships—a program that would have encouraged corporations to donate money to nonprofit groups that award grants to pay for tuition at private schools.
Both plans failed in a House committee.
For a second year, Gov. Sanford also came up empty on his plan to create a statewide charter school district that would allow for easier approval of the largely independent public schools.
The governor did agree with lawmakers on a workforce- development act aimed at helping high school students better match their courses with career interests. Part of the law calls for research-based dropout-prevention programs to be made available to all school districts.
Vol. 24, Issue 40, Page 18