Jeff's Corner

Jeffrey M. Priest, Ph.D.

Associate Director, South Carolina Statewide Systemic Initiative

As I write this issue of Jeff's Corner, we still don't know who is the next president of the United States. If this election doesn't boost the number of people exercising their right to vote at the next election, nothing will. I hope teachers have been taking advantage of this election to not only teach civics, but to teach mathematics (and science….well, the science behind exit polls) as well.

There was (and still is) a lot riding on this election for education in the State of South Carolina. As I write, the national budget is at a stalemate without an end in sight until the presidency is decided. At stake is millions of dollars from the U.S. Department of Education that is earmarked for South Carolina. In the proposed budget is $5.5 million to reduce class sizes, $3 million for professional development, $12 million to improve math, science and reading, $15.5 million for school construction, and $17.2 million for after school programs. Although, in the scheme of things, this money is a drop in the bucket compared to the overall education budget, I would sure hate to see these funds tied up because of the presidential race or even worse, dry up.

At the state level, the South Carolina Senate is now deadlocked with an equal number of Republicans and Democrats. The Senate politics over the next few years will prove to be interesting.

Probably the biggest news in South Carolina is the public voting to allow a state lottery. Although it passed fairly easily, its establishment is far from being a reality. You can expect a lot of politicking over the next few months, if not longer. You can expect everyone associated with education to have an opinion on how the lottery money should be used. The South Carolina Association of School Administrators has already indicated that the money should be designated for K-12 use only. This stance was taken because it is assumed that the money will be used for the Life Scholarship Program, which is deemed a higher education initiative. Although deemed a higher education initiative, institutions of higher education don't get any extra benefits from this program (more on this later).

Because my business is education (as well as your business), I feel obligated to provide my opinion as to how the money should be spent.

1. First and foremost, the lottery should supplement and not supplant money currently designated for preK-16 programs. In other words, this new money should not take the place of money that is already obligated for K-16 education purposes. There already is not enough money to adequately fund education in South Carolina and the lottery should not be viewed as a way of moving other funds out of education to some other line item in the State budget.

2. The lottery money should be used for preK-12 and higher education. In order for the state to make significant strides in education it must think preK-16 and not K-12 and higher education.


3. As for specifics on how much money and how the money should be spent, here are my suggestions:

A. 20% PreK
a. The entire 20% to the First Steps program. Although there are many worthy pre-k programs, I'm willing to put the money in this program.

B. 40% K-12

a. 20% Technology (of the 40%) &endash; we need to get every school up and running with the proper infrastructure to use today's technology. Also, every classroom should have at least 5 computers in them for students to use.

b. 20% to establish regional service centers with specialists in science, mathematics, reading, language arts, social studies, technology and special area needs. The state should take advantage of those service providers already established. Funding must be adequate enough to hire enough qualified personnel to be able to impact every school in the state.

c. 20% to increase beginning teacher salaries. If we really want to attract the best people into teaching, we must be willing to pay for it. We need to increase the starting teacher salary to make it more competitive.

d. 20% to go toward increasing experienced teacher salaries so that the average salaries exceed the southeast region.

e. 20% to go toward incentives for teachers to teach in rural areas in greatest need. The state needs to do all it can to attract and keep good teachers in the rural areas. The State might look at deferred benefits such as providing 1.25 years of service for every year of service teaching in rural areas. This would only count if the person stays a minimum of 4 years.

C. 40% Higher Education

a. 20% to Life Scholarships. Although Life Scholarship money is used to pay tuition, in reality it is not extra income for institutions of higher education. It really is a substitute for the source of tuition money (money either comes from the student (or student's parents) or from the scholarship). There is no net gain to the institutions of higher education.

b. 20% for technology. Not only do K-12 schools need technology, so do institutions of higher education.

c. 20% to schools of education to recruit students into teaching as well as revamping programs to prepare students for today's demands of teaching.

d. 40% for operating costs of institutions of higher education. Ever since I have been in South Carolina, institutions of higher education have not been close to full funding using the current formula funding system.

Those are my 25 cents worth of ideas for use of lottery funds. Of course 25 cents won't buy a cup of coffee today. However, I strongly believe the key to economic growth in South Carolina is its education system, preK-16. Therefore, we must put our money where our future is.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season. Let's make education the odyssey of a lifetime in 2001.




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The Ruth Patrick Science Education Center Newsletter is a publication of the RPSEC for educators. The Center encompasses the CSRA HUB, CEET, Dupont Planetarium, and NRSMEEP. If you have any information that would be beneficial to the audience of this newsletter, or would like to be added to the mailing list, please contact Cindy Sparling, Editor, at (803) 641-3594. Deadline for submission in the next newsletter is March 3, 2001.  Copyright © 2000 by the Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina.

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