SC Governor Proposes Overhaul of School Funding Formula

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FILE – South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster examines data on the spread of COVID-19 in the Kershaw County school district during a discussion with school officials at Camden Elementary School on Wednesday, September 15, 2021 in Camden, SC South Carolina set a record for positive tests over New Years weekend 2022 and COVID-19 hospitalizations are up 67% from the previous week. But McMaster, a Republican, vowed hospitals won’t fill up and life will stay normal. (AP Photo / Jeffrey Collins, file)

PA

The governor of South Carolina is proposing a simplification of the formula the state uses to pay its share for public schools.

The new formula Governor Henry McMaster will put in his budget plan submitted to lawmakers later this month will increase flexibility and accountability and help poorer districts, his education staff said.

The proposal sends money based on the student-teacher ratio and minimum teacher salary instead of the confusing formula tables currently in use.

McMaster’s budget adds $ 120 million to the $ 3.4 billion sent to local school districts to ensure that 72 of 79 districts receive more money from the state next school year. The remaining seven districts are expected to remain at the same level, the governor’s office said.

The formula sends money to schools based on a ratio of 11.7 students per teacher. It then pays districts $ 66,524 per teacher needed, which is the median teacher salary in South Carolina. It also increases funding for certain groups, such as children in special education programs.

According to the governor’s plan, the biggest change is to increase the amount of extra money given to districts for students in poverty by two and a half times per child.

Districts can increase the pupil-teacher ratio and have great latitude in how the money is spent, whether it is on administrators, special programs or better salaries for teachers.

What the governor wants in return is accountability and his budget proposal would require audits by state-approved auditors, budgets posted on school district websites, and searchable expenses in order to try. to understand why some districts prepare students better for college or obtain students who can read faster.

The governor’s staff have said they want to be flexible with the new formula and work with lawmakers when they return Tuesday for the 2022 session.

McMaster joined Speaker of the House Jay Lucas and then Speaker of the Senate Harvey Peeler in a 2019 request on ways to revamp the education spending formula sent to the Office of Fiscal and Fiscal Affairs of South Carolina, which predicts how much money the state will raise and predicts how much the proposed programs will cost.

The agency’s report came out six months before the COVID-19 pandemic. The Governor’s Plan is a scaled-down version.

One thing the new plan does not address is a 2006 law that limited the amount that local governments could raise in property taxes and how quickly those taxes could increase when property values ​​rose.

Schools depend on property taxes and these caps reduce their ability to raise funds, especially in poorer and smaller districts where there aren’t as many businesses to shoulder the tax burden.

The governor’s office said his plan was a first step that it hopes will eventually lead to a complete overhaul of school funding.

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.

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