Thursday, June 30, 2011

Haley makes heroes of local lawmakers

Following in former Governor Mark Sanford's footsteps, Governor Nikki Haley has accomplished a tricky feat: She has made heroes of local lawmakers across South Carolina who voted to override her vetoes.

Today's edition of the Aiken Standard offers one example of the phenomenon:

On Tuesday, S.C. Rep. Roland Smith, R-Warrenville, said he couldn't predict how the House members would react to 34 budget vetoes from Gov. Nikki Haley. About 24 hours later, he was expressing surprise by the huge margins that the House overrode 26 of those vetoes.

The Senate also overrode all but one of those vetoes, leaving funds in the budget for K-12 education, higher education, ETV, the S.C. Arts Commission and much more.

Smith said Lexington lawmaker Kenny Bingham was frustrated with Haley over her veto of $6 million going to ETV to cover the agency's education programming and training for law enforcement and other programs. In effect, Bingham felt the governor had vetoed a funding plan for ETV that she herself had requested.

"He was very upset, and that's putting it mildly," said Smith. "At a meeting this morning, (Haley's) staff people did a briefing, and some legislators felt they (the staffers) didn't have the information they should have. That was somewhat surprising, but the governor has been in for six months with a totally new staff. They are still learning."

But she seems unaware of what's she done: "The Associated Press reported Haley stated the overrides of her vetoes indicate that legislators are overspending."

In addition to counting their local representatives as saviors, local officials are counting the benefits from all those overridden vetoes.

The overrides of education funding means a swing of about $3.6 million for the Aiken County School District, said comptroller Tray Traxler. The General Assembly reinstated $56 million toward raising per-pupil allocations statewide. Aiken County had budgeted $1,860 per student in anticipation of the increase. If Haley's veto had been sustained, the amount would have been $1,788, a loss of about $1.6 million, Traxler said. With the override, however, the district will get an allocation of $1,880, which will mean about $2 million overall.

In addition, state lawmakers put back supplemental funds for several districts, which will mean another $1.6 million for the Aiken County school system. Traxler said the School Board didn't budget that amount in anticipation of a change in a school funding formula that wold reduce the allocation in that amount. However, the House and Senate will provide $20 million overall for Aiken and other districts, "holding them harmless" for that prospective loss of funds.

"This is great news," said board member Levi Green. "We have to make sure we use that money wisely. If something happens and we get a hit (in funding) next year, we can tap those funds."

When the House members saw all the governor's vetoes directed at education, Green said, "I think they had a clear understanding of what she was doing. They couldn't let her take money off the table that's desperately needed for education."

It's good news for all public schools in South Carolina, said another board member, Keith Liner. The money is not a windfall, he said. Under the state's own funding formula, school districts should be receiving nearly $2,800 per student.

"This really sends a message that at least the House and Senate are supportive of public education."

Seeing the backlash against the vetoes -- and against lawmakers who voted to sustain them -- even Haley's supporters have to say something to keep them in local voters' good graces:

S.C. Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, voted to sustain the veto of the $56 million for K-12 education, opposing one-time funding for ongoing needs. However, he agreed to override the other $20 million, because those funds were preventing the loss of formula funding for Aiken County and other districts. Overall, however, Massey wasn't happy with the governor, either.

"The vetoes she issued were relatively insignificant," he said. "The big money items where there is significant growth in spending, she didn't touch. A lot of conservatives thought she would try to trim down things. We're very disappointed."

Those who have been around since Haley was in college are managing the matter with deftness.

S.C. Rep. Bill Clyburn, D-Aiken, agreed that the Wednesday session was one of the most unusual in his 15 years of service.

"I feel so much better about the education spending," he said. "Everybody knows how important ETV is and public safety training. This is not a party thing."

Will Haley's book feature a chapter on veto overrides?

Really, a book?

Her Excellency, Governor Nikki Haley, has been in office slightly more than five months.

In that time, she has booted the state university's largest benefactor in history from the board of trustees and replaced her with a campaign contributor. See Moore, Darla.
She fired the state's popular and effective retirement system director and quickly named a replacement without notifying key officers. See Boykin, Peggy.

She has presided over a rise in the state's unemployment rate, seeing it return to double digits. See Job Creation, Lack of.

Though millions of South Carolinians, with jobs and without, stretch the weekly groceries bill with ground beef and Hamburger Helper, she has lived well on the public grace, enjoying "menus with Peruvian squid tubes, rabbit loin, shiitake mushrooms and other exotic ingredients," plus "small amounts of Fresh Market Chilean sea bass at $25.99 a pound and Yellowfin tuna at $21.99 a pound, and a number of Publix sushi platters," as well as spending public funds "to buy a Riedel wine decanter and Riedel cabernet/merlot wine glasses." See "Let Them Eat Cake."

She has offended lawmakers in both parties with petty slights, withholding invitations to a Governors Mansion from some, turning another away at the gate. See Brown, Boyd; also Howard, Leon; also "Petulance and Pettiness"; also Not the People's House.

She injected herself gracelessly -- and has infamously sought to drag national candidates -- into a dispute between a federal agency and a corporate campaign contributor operating in South Carolina. See Boeing.

She has fueled a well-publicized feud with another elected executive officer, declaring him "irrelevant" to the state's official business. See Loftis, Curtis.

She bungled an agreement made by her predecessor's economic development team with one of the world's largest companies, who had begun construction on a location in South Carolina but shut down and withdrew when she engaged in a foolish game of chicken over tax breaks. See Amazon.

After campaigning on a platform of "transparency," she has conducted closed-door meetings with national bond-rating agencies and shut the state's retirees out of discussions about their retirement system. See Griswold, Sam.
She embarrassed the state by ignoring the President of the United States during a briefing of governors in the State Dining Room of the White House, and checking email on her iPad instead. See Reuters Photographer, Caught by a.

She provoked legal action from the President Pro Tem of the state Senate by issuing an executive order in contravention of constitutional powers and state law, losing the fight before the state Supreme Court. See McConnell, Glenn. See also Supreme Court.

She earned a stunning rebuke from the full legislature by issuing 35 vetoes and having all but nine overridden, just as quickly and spectacularly as were the vetoes of her predecessor, and garnered an especially raw accusation of double-dealing and dishonesty from a lawmaker from her own home legislative delegation. See Bingham, Kenny.

And she bragged, oblivious, to a small audience of fans in Florence this spring that she hadn't made any mistakes while in office. See Hubris.

All the while, apparently, Her Excellency has been writing a book, no doubt expounding on the highest principles of governance and her nascent, derivative political philosophy. (See Sanford, Mark.)

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley has a book deal.

Sentinel, a conservative imprint of Penguin Group (USA), said Wednesday that Haley’s “Can’t is Not an Option” will come out in January.

Haley, a Republican and Tea Party favorite, was elected last year. At 39, she is the country’s youngest governor and only the second Indian-American governor.

In an interview in March, Haley said writing had been “therapeutic” and that she would cover everything from growing up in rural South Carolina to her contentious 2010 campaign, when she faced — and denied — allegations of infidelity.

Haley said she was not planning a run for national office. Her literary representative, Washington attorney Robert Barnett, has negotiated deals for Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Notice the names that her "literary representative" has aided in the past: Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, all presidents of the United States, including two two-term presidents. What is it that governor-for-five-months Haley has to offer that compares with these political giants? A Newsweek magazine cover?

The title is particularly trite: "Can't is Not an Option." Here's what "cant" is: "cant" is "empty, uncritical thought or talk."

"Cant" is also the "jargon of a group, often implying its use to exclude or mislead people outside the group."

"Cant" is also "insincere, especially conventional expressions of enthusiasm for high ideals, goodness, or piety."

Yes, I know. She's using the word "can't" as a contraction for "cannot," as in "Haley can't play well with others" or "Her Excellency can't understand why people won't just do as she instructs them."

Here's a fun project for readers: What do you imagine will be the chapter titles of Haley's book?
Example: "Voters Would Soon Learn What Hit Them, Hard"

Here's another one: What do you imagine would comprise Haley's top ten list of governing principles?
Example: Reward your campaign contributors early and well.

Or another: What should be the subtitle of Haley's book?
Example: "Can't is Not an Option: If You Can Read This, We're Spending Too Much on Education"

Hicks: Citizens should be serious about preparing youth

If educators didn't know much about then-Rep. Nikki Haley in 2010, they know a lot more about her today. Jackie Hicks, president of The South Carolina Education Association, told the South Carolina Radio Network this week that Haley's vetoes of state education funds didn't "sit well with educators."

Of the $213 million dollars in spending that Governor Nikki Haley vetoed in the state budget proposal, $56 million of it was added for education at the end of the session by lawmakers using higher-than-expected revenue collected this year. Haley said the state had already increased education funding by more than $100 million dollars.

Haley’s veto does not sit well with educators, including South Carolina Education Association President Jackie Hicks. She says, even with the increase, spending levels are not what they should be.

The SCEA, the state's largest association of education professionals, has a political action committee that supports candidates who support public education. Under the administration of Governor Mark Sanford, the organization drafted a "definition of support for public education" to spell out what "supporting" public education means.

Consistently under-funding public schools was not part of the definition.

Hicks says if the state expects to grow its economy by attracting more corporations that offers high-paying, high-tech jobs, they must be willing to invest in a well-prepared workforce. She said that starts with investing in young people by putting more dollars into public education. Hicks says lawmakers have to understand that investing in the public schools is an investment toward growing the state’s economy.

Haley says educators must use existing dollars more efficiently, by using less dollars at the administrative level and putting more money in the classroom. School officials say they have already trimmed administrative budgets significantly and they need higher funding to avoid further cuts and teacher layoffs.

Hicks says it is important that citizens across the state get serious about preparing our greatest asset: youth; giving them the education they need and deserve in order to take their place as productive citizens in the challenging and competitive global economy.

The South Carolina Radio Network's webpage features audio of this week's interview with Hicks.

Greenville's Fisher to retire after career serving students

Here's the resume of a ready-made state superintendent of education:

Knowing early in life that she wanted to build a career in public education, she earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in education.

She built her professional career in the classroom, teaching children, between 1969 and 1986.

She became a principal, then an associate superintendent for a growing metropolitan school district, spending a combined ten years in the two positions.

From there, she became assistant superintendent for middle school education in the state's largest school district, then deputy superintendent and chief of staff, serving in these positions for eight years.

Finally, she was named superintendent of the same district and led successfully there for seven more years.

All the while, she continued to earn graduate and post-graduate degrees and credits.

Along the way, she gained the respect and admiration of her peers, collecting their nominations for various local, regional, state and national awards, and winning many of these honors.

Through serving her community, she promoted various other organizations and garnered their own accolades: the Urban League, the Boys and Girls Club, the state Future Farmers of America.

This, certainly, is the equipment carried by an effective, competent, capable and knowledgeable candidate for State Superintendent of Education.

Unfortunately, Greenville County Superintendent Phinnize Fisher is not running for that office; she is retiring. Greenville's loss is South Carolina's loss.

Greenville County Schools Superintendent Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher announced Wednesday afternoon that she plans to retire within the next year.

“I have deliberated and struggled with when is the best possible time for me to step aside as superintendent,” said Fisher. “Leaders make hard decisions and after careful thought, I have made the very difficult decision to prepare for retirement.”

“I am proud of the work that we have accomplished. We have achieved many great things that will sustain Greenville County Schools for years to come. We have a culture within the District of being open and honest, transparent, collaborative, and inclusive. I am confident that the next superintendent will sustain this momentum and continue to improve our school district through creative and innovative ideas.”

“The many accomplishments that we have achieved during the past seven years would not have been possible without the hard work and expertise of our dedicated teachers, administrators, and support staff. I am honored to have worked with them. The community has also played an integral role in making Greenville County Schools a better place to learn. I also want to thank the Board of Trustees for providing support and leadership during my time as superintendent and for this amazing opportunity to lead Greenville County Schools.”

School Board Chairman Roger Meek said,“The School District of Greenville County has accomplished much during Dr. Fisher’s tenure as district superintendent and she will be greatly missed on both a professional and personal basis. The School Board greatly appreciates her leadership, especially during some of the most difficult financial times in our state and school district. She has had a positive impact on the Greenville County community, and made a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of students, teachers, staff, and parents. She is an extraordinary leader and an even better person.”

Fisher has demonstrated her worth to the educators and parents of Greenville County. She assumed her role at a difficult time in the district's history, and she proved a steady guide.

Accomplishments under her leadership include improvements in student achievement, district-wide national accreditation, completion of the BEST School Construction Program and development of the follow-up Long Range Facilities and Capital Improvement Plan, opening of the state’s first elementary school with a fully integrated engineering curriculum, expansion of choice programs that provide opportunities for learning while recognizing the important role of extracurricular activities in developing an individual’s full potential, and establishment of the Greenville County Schools Foundation.

Congratulations, Dr. Fisher. Yours is a tremendous story. May your retirement be long and productive.

Educators: Zais 'cutting off our nose to spite our face'

Having failed to convince Superintendent Mick Zais and Governor Nikki Haley of the most appropriate course of action, leaders of the state's school boards association and school administrators association are taking their argument to South Carolina's opinion leaders and citizens.

Paul Krohne and Molly Spearman, executive directors of the School Boards Association (SCSBA) and Association of School Administrators (SCASA), respectively, have published a joint opinion-editorial in at least two newspapers today, The State and the Myrtle Beach Sun-News, to argue that Zais should try, at least, to compete for up to $50 million in federal "Race to the Top" funds.

"Race to the Top" is an Obama administration initiative, administered by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, to target federal resources to states that agree to various education reforms. The recipe of reforms favored by the Obama administration would suggest that South Carolina is an ideal candidate for the funding, if only the superintendent would apply for it. But Zais isn't interested.

The effective result is that federal taxes being paid by South Carolinians will be used by states that do apply for, and win, the funding.

Krohne and Spearman write,

South Carolinians, in the tradition of the late Senator Strom Thurmond, have always recognized the folly in sending our own tax dollars to the federal government only to have them forwarded to other states. The baffling tendencies of today's state leaders to stand rigidly on their ideology, even when federal money can be used for the good of our people, is cutting off our nose to spite our face.

We understood the illogic of this approach two years ago when Gov. Mark Sanford protested the federal stimulus by attempting to leave South Carolina's share on the table, even though our taxpayers would pay the cost.

Unfortunately, our current leaders are following exactly in his footsteps.

I think Ralph Waldo Emerson captured this pattern best when he wrote, in "Self-Reliance," "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines."

The announcement by State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais that he will not pursue up to $50 million in funding under the federal Race to the Top program, quickly noted and celebrated in the eight other states invited to apply, will hamper educational progress here and fuel it elsewhere, for no good reason.

His excuse - that federal money means federal dictates - has little relevance in this case. Unlike many federal initiatives, Race to the Top was designed specifically to encourage state-level ingenuity, and is remarkably hands-off and state-driven.

Our state's application in fact reflects our state's own longstanding needs, priorities identified and wished for long before federal funding made them a possibility. Several of the innovations we have proposed are exactly the kinds of reforms Zais supports, including improving the quality and transparency of education data, encouraging our best teachers to work in schools that need them most, and creating a system of teacher pay that is based less on credentials and more on performance. Many of our priorities are infrastructure needs suitable for one-time funding, not new bureaucracies that impose ongoing costs.

Message: Some people just can't take 'yes' for an answer. To collaborate with educators -- which certainly would be interpreted by Zais's base as buckling to the status quo -- would only encourage educators to expect future collaboration. This defies the command-and-control manner to which Zais is accustomed. (Word from Newberry seems to support this view...)

And it gets worse. If there is little sense in opposing the Race to the Top initiative, there is none at all in rejecting direct assistance to schools to retain teaching positions. South Carolina has the distinct title of being the only state in the nation to leave on the table millions of dollars designed specifically to preserve teaching jobs in the leanest economy any of us can recall, preventing the devastating layoffs and furlough days nearly every district has experienced in recent years.

The $144 million allocated under federal "Edujobs" legislation is enough to save more than 2,500 teaching jobs, or two thirds of the positions lost over the course of the recession. Thanks to last year's massive cuts in higher education spending, South Carolina can't access that badly needed funding without a congressional waiver, sought by our delegation last year at Superintendent Jim Rex's request. Zais has abandoned any such effort, which his staff has described as "a dead issue."

Every point made by Krohne and Spearman here is valid because they are rooted in logic and reason. But we do not function in a system governed by logic and reason; Haley, Zais and their sycophants operate in a parallel, Bizarro universe where the goal is to reduce the number of teachers teaching in public school classrooms, not to increase them; to raise the teacher-student ratio, not to lower it; to weaken the public education system they swore to support, not to strengthen it.

Unfortunately, South Carolina is not our world -- it's theirs. We only live in it.

Of course, until they change the Constitution to exclude us, we get to vote in it.

It's clear that Krohne and Spearman understand this. Their message isn't to the saved but to the uncommitted:

And yet, like Gov. Sanford before him, Zais apparently leaves significant wiggle room in his ideology to support the projects he favors. He has been quick to applaud the millions of dollars in federal funding awarded to South Carolina to establish charter schools, with no talk of bureaucracy, Washington footprints, or "pieces of silver" exchanged for federal "strings."

At best, there is an alarming confusion in the priorities of an administration that won't take federal assistance to sustain the teachers and schools we already have, but is happy to accept it to support a political agenda.

It's an undisputed fact that few states have educational needs as pressing as South Carolina's. Poverty rates, high at the beginning of the recession, are rising every year, creating new challenges for schools even as state funding has declined. We are losing teachers, increasing class sizes, and cutting academic programs, at a time when we urgently need to improve achievement.

Our state and national leaders need to recognize that South Carolina's resources are far too limited and our needs far too great to help fund schools in other places at the expense of our own. There is no acceptable reason not to give our schools and students our strongest support.

Indeed. Educators, unite.

Fed school funds bungled by 'lack of coordination'

I'd say it's more than just a lack of coordination that led to the $111 million cut in federal funds that otherwise would flow to South Carolina's schools from Washington. It's a consequence of electing executive officers with no previous electoral experience, no experience in public K-12 education, and no previous knowledge of the funding mechanisms of the federal government. That, plus a healthy dose of ideological animosity toward the federal government's role in public education. And a tendency to hire political lackeys with even less experience and knowledge to help lead the agency that supports the state's most important institution.

But Rick Noble, CEO of Richland County's First Steps to Community Readiness Partnership, is much more diplomatic when he talked to Al Dozier of the Free Times of Columbia this week. “It shows a lack of coordination with the Department of Education, the governor’s office and the Legislature,” he said.

For a fuller explanation of what the funds are for, read the background here.

At the moment, the prevailing image of this fiasco is a portrait of Keystone Kops, or the Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight. Superintendent Mick Zais is pointing the finger at others, who are pointing fingers right back at him.

Where's Jay Ragley when he could be useful and take the public flogging?

State Department of Education officials say they didn’t get official notice until mid-June that the federal penalty would be levied, a response to the state’s under-funding of special education over the past three years. But the department is quickly moving to fix the shortfall by June 30 and comply with federal requirements.

State officials have already come up with $75 million, money that will flow back to school districts all across the state. That spending could include salaries for special-education teachers, treatment programs for students and classroom supplies. The state also hopes to block the imposition of another $36 million penalty, based on the budget shortages of 2010, with a legal appeal.

Advice from our elders: Doing a thing right the first time saves three times the energy undoing the wrong and making it right. If South Carolina hadn't under-funded its schools' special education needs consistently, we might not be facing the loss of more than a hundred million dollars, plus tens of millions in penalties on top of it.

The House Ways and Means Chairman, Brian White, says he didn't get word from Zais about the problem until late in the game. Zais told him that the U.S. Department of Education didn't raise the issue until June 18, though he admitted to White "that he was aware of the possibility earlier this year and has been in touch with the governor’s office." Well, there's the rub: One without deep knowledge of, and appreciation for, public education consulting another without deep knowledge of, and appreciation for, public education. And these are the two people charged under our Constitution with the greatest responsibility for strengthening and administering our system of public schools.

Now comes Jay Ragley, Zais's "deputy superintendent for legislative and public affairs," with the complete explanation: It's Jim Rex's fault.

“Everything that happened occurred before he [Zais] took office,” Ragley said.

The people of South Carolina can count on Jay Ragley to clear things up and point the way to a solution. It's likely why Zais appointed him "deputy superintendent for legislative and public affairs."

Funny thing: Professionals who have built their careers in public education, who understand and appreciate it, have a different take on the matter.

Roger Smith, executive director of the South Carolina Education Association, says “It’s not the first time this has happened.”

Last year the state lost $144 million in stimulus funds that would have gone to public schools, Smith recalls. The reason: the state was not spending enough money on higher education.

The problem is revenue shortfalls, the likes of which have rarely been seen in the past, Smith says. The state simply did not come up with enough money to satisfy the requirements imposed by federal regulations.

Noble, who was critical of Zais for not seeking a chunk of the $500 million in federal Race to the Top competitive grant funds because too many strings are attached, says it’s puzzling that Zais is now rushing to get the special education funds.

In a letter to Free Times, Noble says he is “confused and speechless” that Zais now fears the loss of federal money.

“Would someone please clarify the state’s position?” Noble asks. “This reminds me of Amazon.”

But Noble acknowledges that Zais should pursue the millions in education funds that could be lost. “Not to would be stupid,” he says.

Perhaps South Carolina's public schoolchildren would benefit from having education professionals elected to executive offices in Columbia. At least forms might be filed on time.

WSJ: American teachers most productive, work most hours

The only thing surprising about this news is that it was published by the Wall Street Journal, no friend of America's education professionals.

In its "Number of the Week" blog feature, the Journal reported that American teachers spend an average -- an average, mind you -- of 1,097 hours per year on instruction, though the average school year is 36 weeks.

American teachers are the most productive among major developed countries, according to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development data from 2008 — the most recent available.

Among 27 member nations tracked by the OECD, U.S. primary-school educators spent 1,097 hours a year teaching despite only spending 36 weeks a year in the classroom — among the lowest among the countries tracked. That was more than 100 hours more than New Zealand, in second place at 985 hours, despite students in that country going to school for 39 weeks. The OECD average is 786 hours.

And that’s just the time teachers spend on instruction. Including hours teachers spend on work at home and outside the classroom, American primary-school educators spend 1,913 working in a year. According to data from the comparable year in a Labor Department survey, an average full-time employee works 1,932 hours a year spread out over 48 weeks (excluding two weeks vacation and federal holidays).

Any teacher who carries bagsful of math papers to grade in the bleachers at middle-school basketball games will recognize herself here.

And it puts the lie to the charge that teachers enjoy short hours, short months and long breaks, doesn't it?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Senate overrides Haley's veto of school funding

South Carolina's chamber of greater deliberation, the Senate, voted to override Governor Nikki Haley's vetoes of $76 million in public school funding, which will leave the base student cost for 2011-2012 at $1,880 -- still well short of the roughly $2,700 prescribed by the Education Finance Act's annual funding formula, but more than either chamber passed in its original budget plans.

More analysis will come in tomorrow's papers, I'm sure, but the initial takeaway from today is that the General Assembly has delivered Her Excellency as sharp a rebuke as it ever gave to former Governor Mark Sanford. Members of both chambers voted easily to override the vast majority of her vetoes, despite her letter praising them for working more agreeably with her than they had with Sanford, and exhorting them to sustain her vetoes to establish a "new mindset" for governing through her term.

Will Haley accept her rebuke and amend her course? Hard to predict, but if past behavior is a good predictor, that's not likely. Sanford used each veto fight as an opportunity to dig in his heels and denigrate detractors in his own party. Haley, Sanford's ideological and political heir, isn't likely to approach her opponents with any more maturity, at least not in private. We'll see what she says in public, tonight or tomorrow.

Something tells me her staff already has a statement prepared.

Senate overriding Haley vetoes now

While there's no fuller media reporting of the Senate's specific actions, John O'Connor of The State has tweeted that the Senate voted to override Governor Nikki Haley's veto of $12.4 million in funding to purchase school buses, her vetoes of funding for SCETV, and vetoes of funding for technical schools.

Senators are taking the House's overrides in a different order than did the House, so it isn't clear whether they have agreed to keep the $76 million that Haley stripped from public schools or the $2 million she took from the state arts commission.

House sustains Haley's veto of treasurer's funding

Effectively taking sides in the brouhaha between Governor Nikki Haley and Treasurer Curtis Loftis, the House just voted to sustain Haley's veto of funding for the State Treasurer's office to conduct follow-ups to audits. The vote was 18 to 93.

Loftis told media last night, "She chose to take a swipe at me and harm taxpayers. There’s nobody in state government whose job it is to follow up on those audits."

Haley has sought to exclude or ignore Loftis since they both entered office in January.

Rep. Murrell Smith asked the body to sustain Haley's veto, claiming that the language would allow Loftis to bring legal actions on behalf of the state. A letter circulated by Attorney General Alan Wilson to House members supported Haley's position. Rep. Ted Vick asked whether Wilson was acting as a "puppet for the governor." Smith said he'd heard no such rumor.

Rep, Harry Ott asked for help to understand fraud and abuse, saying, "If you identify somebody who has defrauded the government, the state, and they have money that they have kept or obtained under flse pretenses, who in state government now... goes after recouping that money that somebody has defrauded the state government out of, if not the State Treasurer?

A solicitor or the attorney general prosecutes criminal action, but the attorney general can bring legal action on behalf of the state, Smith explained.

Smith said Wilson would be willing to work with Loftis to craft appropriate language to resolve the issue.

"If we do as you would ask, then who can I go to and hold them accountable for weeding out and finding people that I hear about, abusing state government, taking money? Who is in charge?"

Smith said the state inspector general would serve that role.

"But we don't have one," Ott said.

Smith said the state has a "de facto inspector general."

So such investigations would be left to "an inspector general, who works for the governor?" Ott asked, without receiving a clear answer.

Ott asked why constitutional concerns were not raised when the issue was originally going through the House and its committees, then asked, "Can you assure me that we have someone working for the state who will answer to the voters and taxpayers?"

Smith said there was such an authority.

Ott alluded to the feud between Haley and Loftis, asking, "What was the momentum behind this?"

Smith deferred to Rep. Jim Merrill, who herded the issue through committee. He said committee members drew up a proviso that was flawed, and that by sustaining Haley's veto, the House would give itself a chance to draft new, appropriate language next year.

House overrides Haley's veto of Clemson PSA funds

By a vote of 106 to three, the House just voted to override Governor Nikki Haley's veto of funding for Clemson University's Public Services Authority, a program that provides research, educational programs and other services to farmers across South Carolina.

Several members rose to speak against the veto.

Rep. B.R. Skelton told the body, "This veto virtually eliminates the public services authority at Clemson. I know that Governor Sanford tried to do it piecemeal, but this tries to do it at one fell swoop. All of you are aware of the impact that it has across the state. This veto would eliminate 246 positions: 246. South Carolina would be the only state in the nation that didn't fund agricultural research at its land grant institutions."

He urged members to override Haley's veto "so that the farmers... can have the kind of research they need and have access to county agents and other services offered to them."

Rap. Mack Toole reminded lawmakers that "the agricultural business is the number one economic engine in the state of South Carolina. It has not been tapped. The opportunity is absolutely great. We have a lot more potential. We have skilled and unskilled people waiting to get into the agriculture business."

"As a rural legislator, representing a rural area," Rep. Joe Neal said, "one of the things I've found Clemson to be adept at, is adapting cutting-edge research for use by rural farmers. We are about, through this veto, to cut our noses off to spite our face. If South Carolina is ever going to be competitive in the area of renewable energy, it's going to come out of our agricultural sector."

House overrides Haley's veto of arts commission funds

By a vote of 105 to eight, the House just voted to override Governor Nikki Haley's veto of funding for the South Carolina Arts Commission.

White said Haley vetoed the funding that had been negotiated by House members to move most state funding into a grant program. Up to 70 percent of the funding approved by House members pass through the state commission to local arts commissions.

Rep. Leonidas Stavrinakis reminded members that the commissions, state and local, serve all the citizens of the state, and that student scores go up when students are exposed to music and the arts.

Charleston LWV supports "high quality" education

South Carolina's educators got a vote of support from the Charleston League of Women Voters this week. On the eve of Governor Nikki Haley's veto rampage, and Superintendent Mick Zais's announcement that he still will not pursue federal funding for public schools, Jane Pulling of the Charleston Area League of Women Voters submitted the following letter to The State, which published it this week:

The League of Women Voters supports a “high quality K-12 public education system for the children of our state.” It would appear that state Education Superintendent Mick Zais has taken the opposite position. Dr. Zais has refused to apply for federal Race to the Top funds, for which only nine states were invited to apply, rejecting the 14-3 request from the non-partisan State Board of Education to reconsider.

This is ludicrous. Funding for K-12 is at an all-time low for this century — at 1995 funding levels for a much larger student population, not to mention general cost increases. School districts cope with these draconian cuts by increasing class sizes, cutting required programs to minimal service levels, charging for athletic and other extracurricular activities, furloughing teachers and administrators, canceling summer school, virtually eliminating professional development, not replacing outdated textbooks and more. None of these steps is good for children’s education. None moves our state forward in global competition.

What is this Race to the Top program to which Dr. Zais claims so many strings are attached? The goal of the competitive grant program is “to encourage and reward states that are creating conditions for education innovation and reform, achieving significant improvement in student outcomes, including making substantial gains in student achievement, closing achievement gaps, improving high school graduation rates, and ensuring student preparation for success in college and careers.” How do you argue with those aims? It’s like opposing apple pie and the flag.

Supporting public education is not a partisan issue. 2010 grantees include North Carolina and Georgia ($400 million each) and Florida ($700 million), all of which found it in the best interests of their children to apply.

South Carolina already has met many of the requirements of this grant: We have among the most rigorous curriculum standards in the nation. We have a comprehensive assessment program that provides feedback to teachers and principals. We have a statewide data-collection system. Our school and district report cards make the data available to all stakeholders. We had, until budget cuts and Dr. Zais eliminated it, a very effective intervention program for low-achieving schools and districts. We have one of the strongest teacher evaluation systems in the nation. We already have done so much more than so many other states.

And it’s our money. Our tax dollars are paying for $1.35 billion that is going to other states. Who can look me straight in the face and say that South Carolina doesn’t need $10 million to $50 million for K-12 public education through Race to the Top funds? Apparently the person who is supposed to be leading public education in our state can. The citizens of this state need to do exactly what they did when then-Gov. Mark Sanford refused to apply for much-needed stimulus funds. They took him to court and made him do it.

House overrides Haley's veto of school bus funding

By vote of 103-6, the House just voted to override Governor Nikki Haley's veto of $12.4 million for the purchase of new school buses.

House Ways and Means Chairman Brian White explained that the state hasn't purchased school buses "in quite a while" and that Superintendent Mick Zais "actually wants to buy new buses." Funding for the buses comes from "out of unclaimed lottery proceeds," he said.

Members voting to sustain Haley's veto included Rep. Tracy Edge, Rep. Thad Viers, Rep. Ralph Norman and Rep. Nathan Ballentine.

House overrides Haley's veto of ETV budget

By votes of 111-1, 107-0 and 108-1, the House just voted to override Governor Nikki Haley's veto of funding for South Carolina Educational Television (SCETV). In each case, the only member voting to sustain the veto was Rep. Ralph Norman.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell called upon Rep. Kenny Bingham to speak to the issue. Bingham defended funding for ETV, saying it provides "services that are core missions of the state of South Carolina, such as our emergency broadcast network." He cited several examples of services provided by ETV, including Amber Alerts, the filming of House and Senate sessions, contracts for broadband services, public radio, and classroom portals in every public school in the state.

"Last time I checked, public education is a public function, and it is being provided for by ETV," Bingham declared.

Bingham described, angrily, the case of a constituent who provides studio services and who now is losing contracts to ETV because of Haley's insistence to make ETV a "private business model," forcing it to rent space, equipment and services in the private sector. He said he talked to Haley and her staff about the problem, yet Haley vetoed the agreement that was reached.

"Character, integrity and honor are more than just words to me, they are the core of what we are," he said. "I am sick and tired of people politicizing this body for their own personal benefits. The governor of SOuth Carolina was involved in every step of the way like she asked to be. We owed that to her," he said. "But I'll tell you what I'm not going to stand for: There's no educational value in the second kick of a mule."

"I may not ever be elected again and I do not care, if this is how it's going to operate," Bingham added. He spoke of "80 people" who work for ETV, "80 people who have families, who have done absolutely nothing wrong. I am not willing to throw those 80 people under the bus to make a political point."

House overrides Haley veto on presidential primary funds

In a pair of votes, first by a vote of 102 to six, the second by a vote of 100 to seven, the House just voted to override Governor Nikki Haley's vetoes of funding for the State Elections Commission, with House Ways and Means Chairman Brian White explaining that the funding was needed for matters separate from the 2012 Republican presidential primary.

House overrides Haley's attack on public schools

With all deliberate speed, by a vote of 97 to eight, the South Carolina House just addressed and voted to override Governor Nikki Haley's veto of $56 million to be applied to the base student cost in 2011-2012. Those voting to sustain Haley's veto included Rep. Thad Viers, Rep. Tracy Edge, Rep. Ralph Norman and Rep. Eric Bedingfield.

By a similar vote, 89 to 18, the House voted to override the veto of another $20 million in funds meant for public schools.

Invoking her own divine right, Haley dismisses public education

What people say and how we say it tells much about our psychology.

For example, South Carolinians reading the news that Governor Nikki Haley's vetoed $76 million in K-12 schools funding, and another $12.4 to buy new school buses for children attending public schools, might take her actions as examples of fiscal austerity.

It's the statement she made to the media that demonstrates her veto was motivated by contempt for the institution rather than mere austerity:

"We could give double this budget to education and there would be people saying it's not enough," she says. "It is now time in South Carolina that we look at how we are spending."

This, from a governor whose children, she says, attend public schools in Lexington County.

Why should we consider this contemptuous?

It's simple. Haley swore an oath to uphold South Carolina's Constitution. The oath was, ""I do solemnly swear that I am duly qualified, according to the Constitution of this State, to exercise the duties of the office to which I have been elected, and that I will, to the best of my ability, discharge the duties thereof, and preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of this State and of the United States. So help me God."

That Constitution's Article XI is titled "Public Education," and it has only four sections. Section 1 establishes a State Board of Education and describes how its members will be elected. Section 2 establishes the office of the State Superintendent of Education. Section 3 clearly states, "The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a system of free public schools open to all children in the State and shall establish, organize and support such other public institutions of learning, as may be desirable." And Section 4, just as importantly, prohibits state aid to private and parochial schools: "No money shall be paid from public funds nor shall the credit of the State or any of its political subdivisions be used for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution."

While we're at it, our Constitution sets forth in Article VI, Section 7, that "There shall be elected by the qualified voters of the State a Secretary of State, an Attorney General, a Treasurer, a Superintendent of Education, Comptroller General, Commissioner of Agriculture, and an Adjutant General who shall hold their respective offices for a term of four years, coterminous with that of the Governor." This puts the election of the State Superintendent squarely in the hands of South Carolina's voters. This prevents a despotic governor from controlling, by appointment, the state's most important institution.

Since her inauguration, Haley has sought to take control of the State Superintendency described in Section 2 (and whose election by the voters is defined in Art. VI, Section 7), ignore Section 3 and circumvent Section 4. None of these actions are actions that "preserve, protect" or "defend" the state Constitution.

From this, the careful reader and observer of this governor's administration might reasonably conclude that Haley is motivated by contempt for public education specifically, and contempt for the state Constitution generally, in making several of the decisions she's rendered in her short tenure.

But one other bit of evidence begs to be considered.

Alongside the description of the wreckage left behind by Haley's line-item vetoes, today's edition of The State publishes the actual letter sent by Haley to House Speaker Bobby Harrell. It bears reading. Its opening paragraphs:

We are line-item vetoing portions of H.3700, R-106, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011-2012 General Appropriations Bill.

We appreciate the cooperation of the General Assembly thus far. Our number one goal should be to learn from the past and avoid repeating mistakes related to spending that put South Carolina government in turmoil over the last four years. Our country and state's economy is not out of the woods yet. We strongly believe that, if we sustain the vetoes and live within a reasonable cap on spending, we will establish a firm footing and new mindset of government working for the people and not the people working for their government.

Our Constitution is clear on the principle that there will be only one governor at a time in South Carolina. The office of governor is not a position shared by more than one person. So by calling herself "we," in these paragraphs and throughout the 11-page veto letter, Haley is employing the pluralis majestatis, or the royal we -- a "nosism" used by monarchs and popes. It grew out of the moldy old "divine right of kings," which Henry II of England used to declare that "the monarch acted conjointly with the Deity."

So "we," when used by the monarch, is shorthand for "God and I."

Has Haley presumed that the Almighty ordained her choice of vetoes? If so, is it appropriate to believe that God ordains the withholding of $76 million from South Carolina's K-12 public school system, and the withholding of $12.4 million needed to buy new school buses? Really, did Haley consult our state's clergy on this matter before invoking the "divine right of kings"?

If so, that surely explains her inferred capacity to see the future, reflected in the part of the veto letter explaining her veto of $12.4 million for buying school buses: "We are vetoing this line because the state should not purchase new vehicles now for a fleet of school buses that we would likely sell to a network of new providers as part of a privatization effort." Before the legislation has taken such an action, Haley declares that it will be so. Again, was God consulted on this matter?

In vetoing the total budget for the South Carolina Arts Commission, Haley and God, presumably, wrote: "We value the arts, much like we value the Heritage Golf Classic, and like the Heritage, we also know that we have strong private partners that have the ability and the willingness to continue funding the arts."

Who knew God was a fan of golf? Does He have a position on the historic exclusivity policies of golf clubs? Where does He stand on the Tiger Woods affair?
And, given the massive volume of art dedicated over two thousand years to Him and His image, is it His will that private interests be trusted completely to support the arts? I'm reminded that the Church sponsored Michelangelo and countless other artists over time, and the Borgias, in collaboration with the Church, established support for the arts as a public enterprise more than seven centuries ago.

We may presume from Haley's veto letter that God has no interest in party politics, because Haley clearly uses the singular "I" to explain her veto of funding for the 2012 Republican presidential primary.

As I have made clear throughout the budget process, I believe private dollars are the appropriate way to fund a partisan Presidential Primary.

But by the time Haley gets to the veto of $56 million for public education, she reverts to the pluralis majestatis and her divine right; they make it clear that Superintendent Mick Zais's judgment pleases them.

There are two issues with this line item that move us to veto it. First, we agree with Superintendent Zais that funding the EFA -- a recurring expense -- with one-time money is an irresponsible way in which to budget. Second, prior to these dollars being allocated by the Senate, South Carolina's education spending was on-par with most other states. Our issue in education is not how much money we spend, but how we spend it.

If Haley is in league with a Deity, it is certainly not the Deity of "Suffer the little children" and "Whatever you do for the least of these, you do also for me." Or, lest we forget, "Render unto Caesar..."

A last note regarding Haley's use of the pluralis majestatis: The late U.S. Navy Admiral Hiram Rickover famously declared, and asked, "Three groups are permitted that usage: pregnant women, royalty, and schizophrenics. Which one are you?"

And Mark Twain similarly concluded, "Only kings, presidents, editors, and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial 'we'."

Here in South Carolina, where we've lived without a monarch since 1776 -- and, indeed, many argue that we've lived without a monarch since 1670, when Charles Towne was planted -- Her Excellency, unsatisfied with the history she's already made, is charting a course that must return us to monarchy, its divine rights and its contempt for the common man.

There's an example in modern popular culture of this sort of monarch; she, too, used the royal 'we' and warned us that "resistance is futile."

Hopefully, the legislature can make quick work of Haley's vetoes today and disabuse her of any monarchist tendencies germinating on the Capitol's first floor.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

South Carolina's children suffer Nikki Haley's wrath

The least among us -- South Carolina's children -- were ineligible to vote last election day. Governor Nikki Haley apparently interpreted that fact to mean that none of them supported her, so she owes them nothing in return. Today, she inflicted upon them the greatest pain she could muster, stripping from the 2011-2012 budget $76 million for their education in K-12 schools and $12.4 million to buy them new school buses.

It wasn't the largest of her 36 vetoes; she struck out the entire capital reserve fund, totaling $107 million, but that fund is used in many different ways across the state, according to The State's summary of Her Excellency's damage. It includes "money for economic development, tourism and millions for building maintenance, particularly on state college campuses."

That leaves the veto of $76 million for K-12 public schools as the largest single-purpose wound from her attack on the budget.

Haley proved to the arts community that their fears were founded and that she's no friend to them, erasing completely the meager $2.1 million that lawmakers set aside donated to the state Arts Commission.

The bright spot in the summary is that Haley vetoed roughly $680,000 in taxpayer funding for her party's 2012 presidential primary.

But The State's summary gave no indication that Haley struck down a single piece of corporate wealthfare, a single tax break benefiting the state's wealthiest or its business community.

Clearly, the targets of her veto pen were South Carolina's children, too young to vote for her opponent in 2014.

Haley spun her deeds differently, of course, saying that "her goal was to limit growth in state spending to the rate of inflation plus population growth." This concept has been tried and failed in other states, most notably in Colorado where its was enshrined in the state Constitution in 1992 and called the "Taxpayer Bill of Rights" or TABOR. For nearly two decades, it has so wrecked Colorado's economy that lawmakers and citizens there initiated efforts to take it back out of their Constitution.

In fact, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities uses Colorado as the model of what not to do to your state's economy with hare-brained Libertarian notions:

TABOR, a state constitutional amendment adopted in 1992 in Colorado, limits the growth of state and local revenues to a highly restrictive formula: inflation plus the annual change in population. This formula falls far short of being able to fund the ongoing cost of government. At a time when health care costs are growing much faster than inflation and the population is aging, TABOR’s inflation-plus-population formula forces annual reductions in the level of government services.

By creating what is essentially a permanent revenue shortage, TABOR pits state programs and services against each other for survival each year and virtually rules out any new initiatives to address unmet or emerging needs.

This is true even in good economic times. For example, from fiscal year (FY) 1997 through FY 2001, amidst a booming economy, Colorado refunded $3.25 billion in "excess" revenue to taxpayers as required by TABOR. (Whenever revenues for a given year exceed TABOR’s revenue limit, the extra amount must be returned to taxpayers.) Yet even as the state was giving up more than $3 billion in "excess" revenues, its services were deteriorating: average per-pupil funding for K-12 education was falling; several local public health clinics were forced to suspend prenatal services for low-income women because of insufficient program funding; and between April 2001 and October 2002 the state was forced to suspend its requirement that students be fully vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough) because Colorado, unlike other states, could not afford to buy the vaccine.

Google "right-wing TABOR formula" and you'll find an assortment of other states that have had this silly and arbitrary straitjacket put on their economic growth.

This is, you know, another illustration that Haley's administration is little more than a third term for former Governor Mark Sanford; during her terms in the House, she "proposed a bill to limit the growth of the state budget every year to the rate of population growth in the state plus inflation, something Gov. Mark Sanford advocated."

The State also drew Sanford into its review of Haley's vetoes, and found this conclusion while searching for good news:

Haley issued 36 vetoes, a far cry from predecessor Mark Sanford who often issued more than 100 vetoes.

In Sanford's case, lawmakers made quick work of delivering override votes.

Haley's vetoes go to the House tomorrow, and I'm hopeful that that chamber can dispatch her handiwork as quickly as it handled Sanford's. A two-thirds vote is needed in the House, then the Senate, to clean up the damage.

Heitsman: Does our political system work?

In 1964 after the presidential election NBC wrote a book describing that election, titled “Somehow It Works.” The question facing the nation in 2011 is simply: Does our political system still work?

While political scientists and pundits rush to defend our political system, an analysis is needed. For our democracy is to work it must have men and women who are willing to forgo their zeal and devotion to ideology. The result of fanatical adherence to ideology is constant brinksmanship over issue after issue.

This constant rattle of arms between fanatic liberals and fanatic conservatives is destructive of the ability to govern and is creating cracks in our form of government.

Perhaps it is the media’s insistence on drama and celebrity over debate and deliberation that has led to the lack of faith in government.

Perhaps it is the lack of men and women of good will. Our government seems infested with persons putting their own personal agendas above the public interest.

Perhaps our democracy is disabled by our old two party political system.

No matter what the cause, the question needs to be asked: Does it still work?

When our Constitution was created Ben Franklin was asked what our founders had created. He responded, "A Republic, If You Can Keep It." Good question, Ben.

Island Packet: Education is a core function of government

Hilton Head is hardly a bastion of liberalism. So when the Hilton Head Island Packet questions Governor Nikki Haley's priorities and advocates for greater investment in public schools, something must be terribly wrong.

Gov. Nikki Haley says she wants state spending to focus on "core functions." Providing a good education for South Carolina's children fits that description and should not get short shrift. We could make no better investment in our economic future than to make sure we adequately fund K-12 education in South Carolina.

After three years of declining revenue projections, the state is finally seeing an upturn. State economic advisors have told lawmakers they can expect an additional $210 million in state revenue for the next budget year.

In the budget that has been sent to Haley, the House and Senate spent $56 million of that on education. That would bring state education spending to $1,880 per student, up from the current $1,615, but still below the $2,720 a state school funding formula calls for.

But Haley has vowed to veto that additional education spending, saying any new revenue should go toward paying down state debt or go back to taxpayers.

That sounds good, but means little without specifics.

We suspect a lot of taxpayers, including smart business leaders, would like to see an appropriately funded education system in South Carolina.

Another $146 million of the $210 million is to be used to reduce by 25 percent the unemployment tax assessments on the businesses that do the most firing and put the most strain on the state's unemployment trust fund.

Those businesses faced a steep hike in the amount they pay per employee after the unemployment trust fund went broke in 2009. That came after years of low unemployment taxes and agency mismanagement that left the state unable to handle the unemployment demands of the Great Recession.

It also left South Carolina with a $1 billion debt to the federal government. Using the new revenue to lower those unemployment taxes is expected to encourage the hiring of workers. Let's hope so because we still have to pay that debt, and we still have to make sure we don't find ourselves in a similar situation down the road.
But lawmakers and the governor will have a lot more credibility on the subject of efficient government when they tackle overall tax reform, including addressing hundreds of millions of dollars in sales tax exemptions approved over the years, repealing the 2006 Property Tax Reform Act and addressing inequitable education funding.

Education is a core function of state government -- the most important function. A strong education system is a sound investment for South Carolina.

Zais may forfeit $144 million in jobs funding

Has anyone from Governor Nikki Haley's office been in communication with Superintendent Mick Zais recently? I ask because Haley ran on a platform of "Less Talk, More Jobs," and Zais seems to be pushing "Fewer Jobs, More Talk."

The Greenville News explains:

Leaders of two of the state's largest public education associations lashed out at state Superintendent of Education Mick Zais on Monday for turning down the chance to win a grant of up to $50 million in federal Race to the Top money, even as the state's efforts have languished in attempting to claim its share of nearly $144 million in federal money to save teaching jobs.

All 49 other states received their portion of the $10 billion teaching jobs grant.

Zais, a former brigadier general now in his sixth month as leader of the state's K-12 education agency, decided against applying for the Race to the Top money, one of President Obama's key education initiatives, saying he opposes “federal intrusion” as a means of improving the quality of schools.

Leaders of the South Carolina School Boards Association and the South Carolina Association of School Administrators went on the offensive Monday, joining the state Board of Education in calling for Zais to reconsider his decision not to compete in Race to the Top.

“We are willing to support the state superintendent and the leadership to improve education,” said Molly Spearman, executive director of the School Boards Association. “But we really feel that some very bad decisions are being made without input from the folks who are on the ground working in these districts.”

J.W. Ragley, a spokesman for Zais, said the Republican state superintendent is living up to his campaign promise in not seeking the grants, which he said come with strings attached.

“Dr. Zais took a clear position as a candidate for public office. He did not support Washington's Race to the Top program because it provided one-time money for recurring expenses, which is the definition of an unfunded mandate,” Ragley said. “His position has not changed since assuming office in January.

“What message is the education establishment sending to students by demanding Dr. Zais change his position regarding Race to the Top? It's acceptable to break your word?”

To put a fine point on it, Mr. Ragley, yes. It is a sign of intelligence to evaluate conditions and make decisions based on new conditions or new information, even if those decisions oppose an earlier-held viewpoint.

And it is certainly a sign of foolishness, if not wanton malice or stupidity, to hold to a viewpoint despite new information or changing conditions merely because you once held the viewpoint. Presumably, you once ate baby food from jars because that's what you liked. Presumably, you once wore diapers because it was the best of several unattractive options. Do you still eat baby food from jars and wear diapers? If not, why not? Is it because, perhaps, conditions changed and you made different decisions based on new information? If that is the case, then surely you're capable of learning, growing, and even changing your position.

This is one more example that elections have consequences, and that elevating unqualified candidates with no previous electoral experience to high office is the sort of criminally tragic act that keeps South Carolina trapped in a time-warped cage of its own making. Hiring inexperienced political lackeys to deliver the daily pap is another.

The separate issue of the missed opportunity for $144 million for teaching jobs goes back to the previous administration.

South Carolina didn't qualify for its share of the money because the law says states must not have reduced their proportionate level of funding for both K-12 and higher education over the two years when they were receiving stabilization funds from the federal government.

That ensures states don't simply slash state spending when they see federal money coming and instead use the federal money to accomplish the grant's purpose of saving jobs.

Although South Carolina's budget was reduced from $6 billion in 2009-10 to $5.8 billion this year, the percentage of the budget that was spent on K-12 schools went up, from 39.7 percent to 43.3 percent. But the percentage spent on higher education fell, from 9.2 percent to 7.3 percent, according to figures from the state Education Department.

In the previous round of stabilization money, the formula allowed states to calculate their spending percentages on the total of K-12 and higher education — which would qualify South Carolina for this grant. The total percentage of the budget spent on education rose from 49.8 percent to 50.7 percent over those two years.

When the issue arose last August, Zais' predecessor, Democrat Jim Rex, had tried to get Congress to tweak the law so the state didn't lose out on the money, which would pay for an estimated 2,600 teaching jobs. But that hadn't been done by the time Rex lost his re-election bid to Zais in November.

If the money isn't sent to South Carolina by Sept. 30, it will go back to the federal treasury.The two education associations are urging the state congressional delegation to seek an amendment or a special “bypass” law, similar to what was done in Texas, to get the money.

Ravitch: Well-funded effort to replace public schools

Education researcher Diane Ravitch marks the end of the school year with a review unlike any in her history, she says: "For the past year, the nation's public schools and the educators who work in them have been subjected to an unending assault."

Occasionally someone will suggest that this is just another swing of the pendulum and is nothing new. I don't agree. In the past, we have had pendulum swings about pedagogical methods or educational philosophy, but never a full-fledged, well-funded effort to replace public schools with private management and never a full-throated effort to hold public school teachers accountable for the ills of society.

What is happening now has no precedent in the past. For the first time in our history, there is a concerted attempt, led by powerful people, to undermine the very idea of public schooling and to de-professionalize those who work in this sector. Sure, there were always fringe groups and erratic individuals who hated the public schools and who disparaged credentials and degrees as unimportant.

But these were considered extremist views. No one took them seriously. Now the movement toward privatization and de-professionalization has the enthusiastic endorsement of governors and legislatures in several states (including, but not limited to, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Indiana, and Wisconsin).

But she finds cause for hope, she says, "grounds that I believe will in time permit a revival of a sane, sound public policy."

One is the anger of teachers themselves, and the upcoming March on Washington on July 30, led by national board certified teachers.

Another is the frustration of parents toward the "creep toward privatization" and high-stakes testing.

In addition, she says, "As research studies accumulate, the evidence in support of current corporate reform policies grows weaker. The evidence about the effects of high-stakes testing, merit pay, judging teachers by test scores, charter schools, and vouchers runs strongly against No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, as well as the mean-spirited policies advanced by Tea Party governors with the support of Michelle Rhee and her Students First front group."

Growing evidence and growing resistance by teachers and parents, by administrators and school boards, will eventually make it possible to break through the media shield that protects corporate reform. In time, the general public will understand the full dimensions of this corporate effort to reduce public space and to hand more of the nation's children over to the private sector. When the curtains are pulled away, we will learn that many idealistic and well-meaning people were cynically used by people with an ideological axe to grind, with a will to power, or with dreams of financial gain.

Finally, she writes,

And then there is history. I only wish I might be alive and vigorous enough 20 years from now to write this story. I know I won't be, but I see the outlines already. It will make a fascinating read. There will be heroes, villains, naive collaborators, rigid ideologues intent on imposing their failed philosophy regardless of its effects, and those who were just following orders or unthinkingly carried away by the latest idea.

Of one thing I feel sure -- history will not be kind to those who gleefully attacked teachers, sought to fire them based on inaccurate measures, and worked zealously to reduce their status and compensation. It will not admire the effort to insert business values into the work of educating children and shaping their minds, dreams, and character. It will not forgive those who forgot the civic, democratic purposes of our schools nor those who chipped away at the public square. Nor will it speak well of those who put the quest for gain over the needs of children. Nor will it lionize those who worshipped data and believed passionately in carrots and sticks. Those who will live forever in the minds of future generations are the ones who stood up against the powerful on behalf of children, who demanded that every child receive the best possible education, the education that the most fortunate parents would want for their own children.

Now is a time to speak and act. Now is a time to think about how we will one day be judged. Not by test scores, not by data, but by the consequences of our actions.