Until South Carolina lawmakers finalize a budget plan, state agencies are bracing for drastic cuts. One measure of just how drastic they might be is the House proposal, approved in March.
The Department of Education budget is divided into two distinct sections: Administration and local districts. Department spokesman Jim Foster says only two percent of the education budget is used in administration and the rest goes to local districts. But while local districts are expecting a cumulative cut of 25 percent over the last two years, according to the House proposal, the administration is expecting a cumulative 45 percent cut.
Foster says there is no doubt that the effects of the budget will be felt in the classrooms.
(Foster on cuts MP3 1:09)
Foster on cuts
Foster says the Education Department has already lost 110 positions out of administration and if the House budget proposal becomes law, 150 additional positions would be cut.
All of the state’s bus fleet is funded through the administration. But Foster says since many school buses are 20 years ago, administration can’t afford to cut out any bus mechanics.
Foster says as bad as this year is, next year may be much worst, when the federal stimulus money is missing from the budget.
Foster notes that state Superintendent of Education Jim Rex has proposed since he took off a complete reform of the state’s tax structure, to avoid a shortage of education funding. Rex’s plan would raise the cigarette tax to the national average and split the extra revenue between health care and public schools. Once school funding stabilized, all of the extra tobacco tax would go to health care.
The South Carolina House and Senate are on a furlough this week and will return next week.