South Carolina Changes Rules to Accommodate Shortfall

Last Updated: April 01, 2009

This article appeared in the March 2009 Rural Policy Matters.

South Carolina is one of many states struggling to find ways to deal with the financial free fall that is forcing school districts to make cuts in every area. Legislators in the state House have passed a flexibility bill that relaxes some of the state’s program requirements. If the bill passes, districts would be allowed to furlough employees, opt out of the textbook replacement cycle, and allow school buses to run on regular diesel fuel instead of biodiesel.
In a unique twist, state legislators included an amendment that would impose a 65% classroom spending requirement on districts. Known in some circles as the “65% solution,” this approach assumes there are excessive administrative costs if less than 65% of school funding is going directly to the classroom, although there is no documentation of a link between student achievement and this limitation. However, a further amendment specified that transportation and food services costs would be included toward the 65% requirement. All 85 school districts met this level and qualified for flexibility. The legislation is currently in the Senate Finance committee.
State Superintendent Jim Rex is pushing for changes to the state’s funding system in his plan, “Begin in ’10.” Rex wants to expand pre-school programs to every low-income four-year-old child in the state and to increase state education funding for all children living in poverty. He also supports a “backpacking” approach where state funding would follow the child.
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Read more from the March 2009 Rural Policy Matters.