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Friday, February 3, 2012

SC School District 56 Speaks Up!

From The Clinton Chronicle:

School District 56 and SCRG differ on funding totals


Published: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 8:10 AM EST
As the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a U.S. senator from New York is so famously - and often - quoted: "You're entitled to your own opinion, but you're not entitled to your own facts."

A glaring example of this was evident at last week's Laurens School District 56 board of trustees meeting.

District staff distributed to the board and media a copy of a report from the SCRG (South Carolinians for Responsible Government) Foundation on education funding in South Carolina for the 2011-2012 school year.

Superintendent Dr. David O'Shields then proceeded to tear apart the information in the report.

"In reality, only about half the figure stated by the Foundation is available to the district to pay for general fund expenses," O'Shields said.

The report said an average of $11,754 is spent on every pupil in public schools in South Carolina. That money comes from a variety of sources; local ($5,705), state ($4,834), other ($1,500) and federal ($1,215).

As a side note, it's interesting that politicians -- particularly our state superintendent of education -- decry that Washington is trying to take over our schools with "strings" attached to federal funds, and yet, the federal funding source is the smallest of all.

The report said District 56 spends $12,770 per pupil, while our neighbors in Laurens spend $9,472 on each student.

The report said the totals do not include revenue from bonds, investments and intergovernmental agency transfers.

That is simply not true, O'Shields said. After subtracting revenue that is set aside (everyone is shying away from using the word "earmarked") for specific purposes other than classroom instruction, the figure spent in District 56 on each pupil is $5,510.

Dr. Gerald Robinson, the district's chief financial officer, provided a written response to the Foundation's report that O'Shields used in his presentation to the board.

"The general public can be misled by the slick, glossy professional nature of the Foundation's report. However, when one digs beneath the surface, a much different picture emerges than the perception painted by the Foundation."

The Foundation's report is unrelenting in its claims and criticisms of public school funding in the state.

"The Foundation utilizes an exaggerated methodology to give the impression that school districts have much more money available for operational expenses," Robinson said.

If we believe the information presented by school district officials - and we do - then South Carolinians for Responsible Government are being irresponsible, at the very least.

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