Associate Director, South Carolina Statewide Systemic Initiative
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% PreKa. 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.
I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season. Let's make education the odyssey of a lifetime in 2001.
Ruth Patrick Science Education
Center of Excellence in Educational Technology
University of South Carolina Aiken
471 University Parkway
Aiken, SC 29801
URL: http://rpsec.usca.edu/Newsletter/Dec00/index.html (December, 2000)