Education groups are criticizing Gov. Henry McMaster after he vetoed more $20 million in next fiscal year’s budget that was to be used to buy new school buses.
McMaster is against spending on new school buses saying that the money mostly comes from the projection that the state lottery would bring in more revenue than forecasted. The governor’s vetoes would leave about $8.4 million for bus purchases and leases.
“The lottery money should be used only for scholarships for our young people,” the governor said in a short video posted to his Facebook page. “Because that’s what voters were promised.”
Education Superintendent Molly Spearman said the buses are sorely needed. “By vetoing funding for the purchase of new school buses, the Governor is putting the safety of our students at risk,” she said in a statement released by her office. “Our school bus fleet incorporates more than 1,500 buses that are over 20 years old and not only are these old buses twice as expensive to operate and maintain, but they are also experiencing structural and mechanical issues.”
The Department of Education said 17 buses have caught fire or overheated since 2015. In some instances, children were on board at the time.
South Carolina School Boards Association Executive Director Scott Price admitted the source of the money “may not be ideal,” but said the need outweighs budgeting principles. “This is not an issue of debate when children are being placed on school buses that have a history of catching on fire, like the one carrying 56 Spartanburg County students who were fortunately able to escape their bus right before it was engulfed in flames,” he said in an email. “We cannot let another school year begin in a couple of months without taking action to ensure the safety of our students as they travel to and from school.”