State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex said today that
federal funds approved by Congress on Tuesday would likely save more
than 2,000 South Carolina teachers from getting pink slips next summer.
South Carolina’s share of more than $10 billion in education aid to
states will be about $143.4 million. Congress also approved $16 billion
in Medicaid funding that could indirectly assist schools by lessening
budget pressure on states that would have been pushed to make additional
cuts to school budgets had they not received help.
South Carolina’s K-12 public schools are beginning the new school
year with $750 million less in state funds than they began with two
years ago. Somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000 positions have been
eliminated over the last two years, including between 2,800 and 3,900
classroom teachers. Additional cuts, including the elimination of
several thousand more positions, are projected for next year.
Although the new federal dollars could be available to districts by
September, Rex said they likely would have little immediate impact
because class schedules and enrollments have already been set based on
reduced numbers of teachers.
Teachers in many South Carolina school districts are already back at
work, preparing for classes that begin as soon as next Monday.
“Districts say they will use the additional federal dollars to avoid
laying off teachers next year,” Rex said. “For this year, they’ll
work to get by with the cuts they’ve already made. Several
superintendents tell us that they may try to restore a few key positions
immediately, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.”
Fewer teachers have resulted in larger class sizes across the state.
Districts have eliminated or curtailed numerous academic programs from
summer school to foreign languages; many parents are now paying fees for
sports and other extracurricular activities; building maintenance has
been deferred; and classroom supply budgets have been slashed.
Rex reiterated his call for the General Assembly to undertake a
comprehensive overhaul of how the state gathers tax revenues and how it
funds public schools.
“Everyone agrees that our current system is broken, that we can’t
keep tinkering with it and expect fundamental improvement,” he said.
“I understand how difficult making this kind of sweeping change is
going to be, but we can’t just keep kicking this can down the