Members of the state House advanced a proposal Wednesday that would borrow up to $200 million per year to help repair and replace older school buildings in South Carolina where local districts lack the means.
A procedural vote on Wednesday moved the bill to the state Senate one day after an overwhelming 98-5 vote. All of those against were Republicans uncomfortable with increasing the state’s debt.
Under the legislation, a statewide assessment would be conducted of district needs. The state Board of Education would then rank the projects and use the bond money to either loan or grant funds as needed. Priority would be given to those districts that lack the means or tax base to pay for new construction by themselves.
“I can tell you, without this, it won’t get any better,” House budget chairman State Rep. Brian White, R-Anderson, said. “And it might get worse.”
Some Democratic legislators thought $200 million was not enough, but White said lawmakers don’t want to limit the state’s borrowing ability which previously maxed out in the early 2000s.
The move is in response to a state Supreme Court order two years ago that South Carolina is not doing enough to ensure children in poor rural districts receive an adequate education.