The State Education Department laid off 80 employees last week. State Superintendent Jim Rex explains why: “For over two years we have now taken 45 percent cut in the operating budget at the state agency level. About a 25 percent cut in the school district. Personnel is a big part of the education budget. I guess when you see that bad of a cut, unfortunately you expect for people to certainly start losing jobs, and that’s certainly what’s been going on in the last two years,” says Rex.
Rex says much of the downturn in the school system’s budget is due to a sales tax decrease because people are not buying as much. As for the 80 employees now without a job, Rex says they were cut from a variety of different positions in the department.
“It ranges from the audit functions, to working with technology in the public schools, supporting teachers, training teachers, curriculum, you name it. It’s kind of a ‘catch 22’ right now because the schools are losing lots of teachers also,” says Rex.
Besides the recent 80 cuts in the State Education Department, Rex breaks down the number of teachers, in addition, that are to be laid off.
“We surveyed the district, it looks like somewhere in the neighborhood of as many as 4,000 people are going to be laid off state-wide from school districts. So, we’re going to start seeing class sizes go up, we’re going to see some afternoon and summer programs that had been working, either cut back or eliminated. So, at a time when these school districts need as much support as they can get from the state, they are going to be getting less,” says Rex.
As for last week’s lay-offs, none of the department’s bus mechanics were cut.
“At the state agency, now more than half of our employees work in bus maintenance shops around the state maintaining the school buses. We travel about 80 million miles a year transporting our kids back and forth to school in South Carolina, and we have the oldest bus fleet in America. We have not cut back in that area, we simply can’t, we have to keep the buses running, and we have to keep them safe,” says Rex.
There are 450 bus mechanics in South Carolina, and about 5,000 buses.