South Carolina Education Superintendent Mick Zais has asked for an increase in the state’s school budget for next year. Zais wants the additional 2.5 percent (about $20.5 million) to go towards new textbooks and buses.
Zais, a Republican in his first year, said the Education Department filled out a budget for 2012-2013 at the request of Governor Nikki Haley.
“We have what we believe to be the oldest bus fleet in the nation,” Zais said. “These buses are more expensive to maintain and, frankly, they’re less fuel-efficient.”
The Legislature overrode a Haley veto earlier this year to allow the Education Department to use up to $12 million in unclaimed lottery winnings to purchase buses for disabled students. The agency won’t know until March how much of that it will end up receiving, however.
The state has not bought new textbooks since the 2009-10 school year, as lawmakers wanted the agency to wait until they adopted new standards for math, reading, science, and social studies. Zais eventually wants to switch schools over to electronic textbooks, which he says will save money in the long run.
One part of the budget proposal that is sure to draw fire is its phasing out of stipends for teachers who are certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The board only certifies those teachers who meet its high standards. South Carolina has one of the highest rates in the country in terms of teachers who are certified.
Currently, the state pays teachers $7,500 extra if they are certified. Supporters of the stipends say it offers an incentive to keep talented teachers in the classroom. However, Zais said it has not translated into student success. He wants to switch to results-based pay. “What we want to do is have a compensation system that focuses on outputs– what students know and can do– rather than inputs (like) credentials or certifications,” he said.
Zais’s proposal also requires school boards to post notices of their meetings online at least 48 hours in advance (up from 24 hours) and their minutes five days afterwards (down from 10 days). Districts would also be required to post their administrative costs on their website or risk losing some state funding.
The proposal requests keeping the base student cost (which the Legislature uses to determine per-pupil funding) at $1,880. That would be equal to this year’s formula, which is higher than 2009 and 2010, but lower than it was in the mid-2000s.