Bus-Fleet Upgrade a Winner, School Choice a Loser in S.C.
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2006 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.
The Republican-dominated legislature in South Carolina approved a 5 percent increase in school funding for fiscal 2008, including a $50 million infusion to buy new school buses for the aging state-owned fleet. The new spending plan calls for total K-12 funding of $3.2 billion.
The biggest fireworks in the session that concluded June 20 came from sparring between Republican Gov. Mark Sanford and the legislature over public school choice. Though Gov. Sanford has pushed for expanding private school choices for families through taxpayer-funded vouchers or tax credits, he vetoed a public-school-choice bill touted by Democrats and by separately elected Superintendent of Education James Rex.
The bill would have allowed students to transfer to other public schools across district boundaries, although with strict enrollment limits to prevent flooding some schools with students. The bill also would have allowed schools to create single-gender classrooms. Gov. Sanford declared in his veto message that the bill was “a step backwards in the education reform movement because it would create the illusion of reform where none would actually exist.”
The legislature couldn’t muster a two-thirds majority to override his veto.
Legislators did, however, have enough votes to override Gov. Sanford’s veto of the bill setting a 15-year replacement schedule for South Carolina’s school bus fleet of 5,700, described as one of the oldest in the nation, and the only fleet entirely owned and operated by the state. In his veto message, the governor said the fleet could operate more efficiently if individual school districts, or private companies, had more control.
Vol. 26, Issue 43, Page 23