Saturday, December 4, 2010

South Carolina schools' badly needed federal millions at risk according to Myrtle Beach press

Our comments are in BOLD and did not appear in the original Sun News article

From Sun News, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

- McClatchy Newspapers
Friday, Dec. 03, 2010

South Carolina's congressional delegation is running out of time to change a federal law excluding the state from $143 million in additional education money before the body adjourns and new leadership takes over the U.S. House.

S.C. education officials estimate the additional round of stimulus money, approved in August, would preserve 2,600 education jobs. S.C. schools have eliminated 4,000 jobs since state revenues began to decline in 2008, outgoing state Superintendent of Education Jim Rex said.

South Carolina failed to qualify for the aid because of $110 million in higher education cuts over the past three years, according to the S.C. Education Department. States must maintain a certain level of education funding to qualify for stimulus money.

If South Carolina's political elite funded education to federal standards in the first place there would be no need for the change to federal law. Their stubborn defense of a backward educational system only lowers the standards for the rest of the US.

In August, state education officials hoped for a congressional fix. It hasn't happened yet, and U.S. Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, the third most powerful member of the House, said the House has agreed to change the requirements, but that the Senate does not support the change.

"Consequently, we are at a stalemate unless the Senate lifts its objection," Clyburn said in a statement.

But neither body has approved the change, and Congress will adjourn by the end of the month. Republicans, who have widely opposed stimulus spending, will assume control of the House from Democrats in January.

Rex said he has asked U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint to change the requirements. DeMint aides said the fix that would procure the money was stalled in the Senate by broader disputes among appropriators over how to fund the rest of the 2011 fiscal year with legislation that can pass Congress in its lame-duck session.

Perhaps Demint should spend the lame duck session getting help for South Carolina schools rather than holding up legislation to preserve tax cuts for the rich.

DeMint tried to reach Rex on Thursday to discuss the problems and planned to speak with him today, the senator's aides said. Efforts to reach Graham were unsuccessful.

"I think most people in South Carolina don't really care about all the details," Rex said. "They just want the congressional delegation to figure out way to get that $143 million.

"All members of our congressional delegation talk about the importance of jobs and job retention. By South Carolina standards, this would be the equivalent of a significant employer coming or leaving. ... It's very important to our economy and our attempts to recover in this state."

Actions speak louder than words.

State leaders said the federal delegation has not contacted them about efforts to secure South Carolina's share of the additional stimulus money.

Gov. Mark Sanford was willing to forgo $350 million in federal stimulus in 2009, taking lawmakers to court for including the money in the state budget. The S.C. Supreme Court ruled Sanford had to accept the funds.

Sanford's office said they have not spoken with federal officials and opposed the initial stimulus because the federal government could dictate state spending - a requirement to qualify for the most recent federal money. Whether S.C. eventually qualifies for the money or not, state taxpayers are on the hook for repaying stimulus aid.

S.C. House Majority Leader Kenny Bingham, R-Lexington, and the new chairman of the House education budget subcommittee, said the money has given school districts and state agencies two years to prepare for a projected $800 million in cuts for the budget year beginning July 1. Bingham said it was unclear how much lawmakers might have to cut K-12 education, the largest portion of $5.1 billion general fund budget.

And while some disagreed with Sanford's opposition in 2009, House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Cooper, R-Anderson, said this year's election results show many will lose no sleep if the federal money heads elsewhere.

Are these guys for real? More cuts to education means South Carolinians will be less eligible for future jobs and will mean less investment by companies requiring an educated work force.Read this:
"That's kind of the message I've heard on the campaign trail," Cooper said. "I haven't planned on using" the additional stimulus money.

Read more:

And another article also from The State:

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