State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex agrees with the key points in a lawsuit that seeks to compel Governor Mark Sanford to accept $350 million in federal stimulus dollars aimed at helping schools and law enforcement agencies. Both have been hit with massive budget cuts. ironically, the suit filed Friday in the State Supreme Court by the South Carolina Association of School Administrators, names Rex and Governor Sanford as defendants. Rex says he understands that by the nature of his position as State Superintendent of Education procedurally he would be named in the suit.In his response to the suit filed Tuesday, Rex agreed with the SCASA that the legislature followed the proper procedure in adding the stimulus funds to the state budget and that the budget is a valid law. “The legislature has made the decisions about the appropriations, the budget. The governor has the option of vetoing that if he disagrees with some portions of it. The governor has exercised that option. the legislators have overridden that veto and now it is his responsibility to execute or administrate that budget.”
Rex also petitioned the State Supreme Court to accept the SCASA lawsuit under its “original jurisdiction” meaning that it should bypass lower courts and go directly to the state’s highest court for a decision. Meanwhile Governor Sanford has requested removal of the lawsuit to federal court.
Rex says because of the present situation, a number of school districts have taken a conservative approach in terms of renewing contracts for next year. Rex says as the case drags on a number of talented teachers are not going to sit around and wait to see if the money is going to be there for them to work next year.
Now whether they will be available, whether some programs would have discontinued that can’t be ramped up again in that short period of time, whether it will have an affect on the quality of people they can find for those jobs versus the quality of people they would have had if they could have made decision last week, or last month, that is hard to calculate right now.
Rex says he is frustrated by the whole situation. Rex says public officer holders are elected to solve problems, not create them. “We’ve created a whole set of problems here that are unique. 49 other states weren’t this creative in terms of creating this mess. I think the people of south Carolina ought to be asking serious questions about who they’ve been electing to office and what their expectations of those people should be versus what they have been up to this point.”
Rex says “it’s important that we have a quick ruling because July first is the deadline for South Carolina to apply for the stabilization funds.”
Rex says as this situation drags on many persons working in the public school system are becoming disillusioned. “I think it has had a negative effect on the morale of many people in the public school system. I think it has made a certain level of uncertainty in terms of whether this state is serious about supporting public education to the degree allowable.”