Education Provisos in the House Budget
Two proposed provisos – both of which failed – would have required the State Superintendent of Education to accept federal education funding. The first proviso would have required the Superintendent to accept all federal dollars without exception. After the House debated the monetary implications that the proviso would have on the state, the proviso was voted down and replaced with a slightly less stringent proviso. The second proviso would have required the Superintendent to accept all federal funds without matching requirements. This seems to indicate a fundamental lack of understanding by the House of what strings come attached to federal education money. Yes, federal education funding comes with monetary strings, meaning that the state has to put up a certain amount of state money as a condition of accepting the grant. But there are other, much more serious non-monetary strings as well. As we reported in our analysis on No Child Left Behind dollars, by accepting federal money, the state has taken the power away from teachers and parents and handed over decisions on what children learn and how they learn it to federal bureaucrats. By taking away flexibility from state education officials, the authors of this proviso are making the strange and inaccurate assumption that federal bureaucrats know what’s better for South Carolina schools than South Carolinians do.
One proviso would have returned some of the state’s surplus dollars to taxpayers in the form of an individual income rebate fund. At the moment, there are several hundred million dollars in surplus state dollars in state coffers – money that was collected from taxpayers last year but not spent. It seems like most lawmakers would like to see to it that these surplus dollars are spent, and not returned to the people from whom it was taken. This failed proviso would have given a portion of that surplus ($127 million) back to taxpayers. The same proviso, however, would have also given $180 million of surplus dollars to state ports. However, South Carolina is among only a handful of jurisdictions in the country that hasn’t yet privatized ports. It seems misguided that lawmakers would appropriate more surplus money to maintaining an unnecessary, ineffective, and expensive (and expensive) state monopoly than they would to taxpayer relief. A better idea: give all surplus money back to taxpayers. Unfortunately, even this modest effort at providing taxpayer relief proved dead on arrival.
Legislatures have passed a proviso to increase the base student funding for another year in a row. Education funding in our state has increased meteorically over the last decade, but results have not. While it may be politically expedient and advantageous to constantly raise base student cost, it does little to address our state’s core educational problem: a lack of choice and a monolithic one-size-fits-all model that fails to take into account individual student needs. If legislatures wanted to get serious about fixing the state’s broken education model, they’d get serious about increasing parental choice, and would implement a system that funds each child according to their needs.