COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – State lawmakers said they have taken a step to “modernize” how South Carolina funds it’s schools.
In the nearly $14 billion budget approved by the House and Senate Wednesday, state lawmakers have reformed the state’s education funding formula. The change will take effect thanks to Proviso 1.3.
The previous funding formula was in place for more than four decades, lawmakers say.
Instead of allocating money for K-12 education in more than two dozen line items – lawmakers have consolidated most of the funding under one line item “State Aid for Classrooms.”
The proviso said “State Aid to Classrooms represent the State’s contribution to the Aid to Classrooms program for direct instruction of students in kindergarten through grade twelve in our state, which is seventy-five percent of the total cost of funding one teacher salary for every 11.2 students.”
It also increases the amount of money sent to school districts based on the number of students with disabilities and those living in poverty.
Lawmakers say the reformed school funding formula accomplishes three main things. It makes the funding simple to understand, increases flexibility, and creates more transparency.
House Speaker Murrell Smith (R-District 67), previously served as the chairman for the House budget writing committee, he said the change is “transformational.”
The state is also allocating an additional $275 million per year for K-12 education. Lawmakers said school districts can use these funds how they see fit, as long as state dollars are focused on classrooms and teachers.
“There is enough money given to the school districts for them to give all their teachers, regardless of where they are, an extra $4,000,” Speaker Smith said. “That’s ultimately their decision.”
Last year, when teacher salaries increased $1,000 across the board, it cost about $72 million.
Patrick Kelly with the Palmetto State Teachers Association said they hope the new funding formula becomes permanent in South Carolina.
“Flexibility is good if the money flows how it’s supposed to,” said Kelly. “It’s going to be incumbent on school districts to make that happen.”
Kelly said the additional money is much needed. They’ll be watching how these new funds are used. He said, hopefully, it’ll be used by school districts to address the teacher shortage.
“This is a statewide problem. Any school district that fails to invest in their staff with increased compensation through this increased state funding, that school district is doing a disservice to the students and families they serve,” Kelly said.
The budget is now on it’s way to Governor Henry McMaster’s desk. He’s expected to send his budget vetoes to lawmakers in the coming weeks.