Education focus of second day of House budget debate (Audio)

On its second day of budget debate, the South Carolina House started off arguing over an education amendment by Republican Nikki Haley. The measure was adopted on a 74 to 42 vote. It would require that 70 percent of every education dollar actually go to classroom instruction, not to administration. Haley said that existing law states that figure to currently be 65 percent. Classroom instruction includes everything from the salary of teachers and aides to school supplies.
Haley asserted that school administration is receiving too much funding.  Spartanburg County Republican Joey Millwood commented that he knew of two superintendents in a Spartanburg school district, a superintendent and superintendent-elect, who together earn more than $300,000. 
That opened up a line of House members going to the podium to attack the amendment as purely political, “feel good” legislation by a gubernatorial candidate.
Richland County Democrat James Smith said that in actuality, regardless of the minimum requirement, school districts already spend 86.9 percent of the education dollar in the classroom.
(Smith, Skelton on Haley’s amendment  MP3   3:01)
Smith, Skelton on Haley amendment

Pickens County Republican B.R.Skelton said lawmakers were taking time to discuss the issue but it was nothing but politics.  And Dr. Skelton emphasized that some districts have fiscal responsibilities like school construction which make more demands on their budgets.
Richland County Democrat Joe Neal said that the issue had already been discussed in past years and that, beyond that, such decisions should be left up to local school officials. He said that not all school districts are equal, so they each make decisions to direct their own funding.  Neal asserted that such a complicated issue needs more study, especially since lawmakers brought forth conflicting information.
Democratic leader Harry Ott put forth an amendment that was adopted 86-28 that would include school principals, to say that principals as well as teachers would be included in the mix of general classroom funding to receive 70 percent of education funding.

Television reporters at rear of House chamber covering budget debate