The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2008 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 fallout from the 2009 legislative session continues in state court, as Gov. Sanford and lawmakers battle over whether South Carolina will accept $700 million in federal stimulus money that would help pay teachers’ salaries and fund public safety.
Gov. Sanford does not want to accept the money from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, because he argues it’s one-time money that would contribute to long-term financial problems for the state. He tried, unsuccessfully, to get the Obama administration to let him use the money to pay off state debt instead. What’s more, Gov. Sanford argues that governors, by law, are the ones who must apply for the stabilization aid, so it’s ultimately his decision.
But the legislature, through its budget-making authority, wants to use the money to help balance the state budget, which stands at $5.7 billion for fiscal 2010 after lawmakers made $1 billion in cuts over the last several months. Gov. Sanford vetoed the stimulus-involved parts of the budget, but the legislature overturned the veto. The crux of the issue is whether the legislature can force the governor to accept the federal economic aid.
At stake for K-12 schools is about $185 million in stimulus dollars, with another $100 million for higher education. Even with the stimulus aid, spending on K-12 education would be $2.2 billion—a cut of about 8 percent—from last year’s $2.4 billion appropriation.
A version of this article appeared in the June 10, 2009 edition of Education Week