Congressman James Clyburn says his staff is working to remedy a problem that’s keeping the South Carolina Department of Education from receiving more than $143 million in federal funds. Federal officials say it would save the jobs of almost 2,400 South Carolina teachers.
Clyburn, the House Majority Whip, says he has been on the phone with the U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne(AR-nay) Duncan this week, indicating that he really wants to fix the problem.
The bill says the Secretary, according to the staff’s interpretation, has the ability to wave the fund maintenance requirement if he receives an application that is not approvable.
Clyburn says South Carolina and six other states which have problems receiving the funding may be able to get waivers through the U.S. Department of Education that would override the new funding requirements. Clyburn says he was told by the U.S. Secretary of Education that the governor’s office will have to apply for a waiver.
Now what happens if he doesn’t receive an application from the state? It’s my understanding that there are seven states in that category. What if a state decides it’s not going to send in an application(for a waiver). And knowing my state as I do, and my governor as I do, he probably won’t. I asked the secretary then what happens? He doesn’t know.
A spokesman for the governor’s office told The State newspaper that the U.S. Department of Education indicated recently that a waiver is not an option.
Clyburn says the problem is not likely to be fixed before Congress reconvenes September 14. Clyburn hopes that it will be taken care of before the fiscal year ends September 30.
A state education spokesman says South Carolina no longer meets the minimum higher education funding requirements because the way of measuring funding changed and officials began considering the public education and higher education individually. South Carolina’s funding of higher education is almost $111 million short of federal requirements due to budget cuts.
Public schools spokesman Jim Foster says the lack of certainty over the federal dollars is not likely to hurt most schools until next year, when most districts had planned to use the money to avoid more layoffs.
The federal funding was approved after the U.S. House met in a special session earlier in August, after the funding package had been stalled by the Senate for months. It also contained $140 million in Medicaid assistance.
The funding should not be confused with $175 million in federal grant money which the state recently lost in the second round of the Race to the Top competition. Clyburn says the President may ask for another $1.3 billion dollars to fund another round of the Race to the Top competition. Clyburn says if the issue comes for a vote, he would support it, if it gives the 35 states like South Carolina a chance, states that are already in the competition process.