Beaufort News

For Beaufort County schools, Gov. Haley's budget heralds both good news and bad

Efforts to get more state money for Beaufort County schools met with mixed results when Gov. Nikki Haley delivered her vetoes on the state budget Tuesday.

The good news: The Beaufort County School District will get nearly $2 million in additional state funding.

Haley left intact a provision that gives a district that receives no money under the Education Finance Act formula at least a minimal amount, which will mean about $650,000 for the Beaufort County district.

She also left in place a plan to distribute about $45 million in one-time aid to school districts for students with disabilities. Beaufort County's share will be about $1.3 million.

The bad news: Haley vetoed a provision setting aside $20 million for school districts that lost money through a new formula for calculating a local district's ability to pay under EFA.

State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, who helped develop the new formula, said Haley didn't object to it, but to the $20 million being set aside. Beaufort County would not have benefited this year from the recalculation but would in the future. Davis says his bill to change the formula is set to come up again in the Senate in January.

Haley also vetoed more than 30 other spending items in the state's $6 billion spending plan, including money for educational television, the arts and the Republican presidential primary.

The vetoes would save the state $213 million, she said.

The new budget year begins Friday. Legislators plan to take up budget vetoes starting July 6. The vetoes will stand unless two thirds of House and Senate members agree to override them.

Haley's vetoes would hit the state's public schools hardest, striking $56 million in additional money schools hoped to get from an unexpected $210 million increase in state revenue from an improving economy.

Haley called it "money tree" spending.

"We could give double this budget to education and there would be people saying that it is not enough," she said. "It is now time in South Carolina that we look at how we are spending."

Haley argued the basics in classroom teaching needs to be addressed. "What they don't need is new administrative buildings," she said. "We need to now focus on the teacher and the student in the classroom and this is the first step of doing that."

Kathy Maness, director of the Palmetto State Teachers Association, said Haley was off the mark.

"The money is going to the base student cost so that we'll have smaller class sizes; so we'll have books and instructional materials," Maness said.

The education spending cuts stretched into South Carolina Education Television. The Legislature had eliminated the agency's $9.6 million in state taxpayer cash but replaced it with fees state agencies would pay for its services. Haley vetoed nearly $6 million of that spending swap.

Haley said she appreciates SCETV. "But I think it needs to be privatized. I think we need to make sure that they are a pay-for-service organization and we're working with that board to help make that happen," Haley said.

She said agencies should decide if they want to buy services from SCETV, which provides programs to public schools and others, including the law enforcement training. But Haley said with the Internet and other training and teaching options, ETV should compete.

The vetoes included nearly $2 million for the state Arts Commission.

"It is a great part of South Carolina. It is what we love, but it is also something that the private sector can take care of," Haley said. "I absolutely believe the private sector will step up with the Arts Commission."

Haley said she would help find private sector support.