It is very sad that Zais, Her Excellency Nikki Haley and others are so intent on leaving their mark on South Carolina that they don’t care if that mark is a scar. And we -- yes, we, those who vote and those who don't vote -- enable these despots by giving them public office, access to the machinery of public government.
This morning's The State brings an item that revealed several key thoughts for the day.
One is that too few of us are bothered to stand up and speak out for what is important. When the U.S. Department of Education got tired of playing "will he or won't he" with Zais, it set a midnight deadline on August 15 for him to act or lose $144 million in federal dollars to pay for teaching positions. So a protest was organized at the Rutledge Building, where Zais is encamped, and only a few dozen people came.
Yes, it was the first day of school. But not everyone is in school, or works in a school; everyone does, on the other hand, have a material interest in the progress of South Carolina's public schools.
Another fact is that the $144 million that Zais threw away doesn't represent some ideological victory for him, only rank stupidity. Those millions won't come back to South Carolina's taxpayers. They will go instead to the public schools of other states, and Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Perhaps, if we go to Hilton Head Island and listen intently enough, we may be able to hear thousands of little Puerto Rican children shouting, "Thank you, South Carolina taxpayers," from across the water.
Another fact is that South Carolina, of all the 50 states, was the only one in the Union who lacked the capacity to get a job done.
The money comes from the Education Jobs Fund, which has $10 billion to be divided up among all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Governors had to apply for the money by September 2010. South Carolina and Wyoming did not apply, and the Texas application was denied because of an amendment in the bill that only affected Texas.
The Texas congressional delegation eventually got the amendment repealed, and Texas received $830 million. In Wyoming, while the governor declined the money, school districts applied separately and were awarded $17.5 million.
South Carolina needed to change federal law to receive its money. To be eligible, states had to meet one of four tests regarding funding for K-12 education and higher education. South Carolina met the K-12 funding standards, but did not meet the higher-education standards, according to Zais spokesman Jay W. Ragley. The Legislature controls funding for higher education.
Last year, when Democrats still controlled the House of Representatives, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, then the third-ranking House member, and U.S. Rep. John Spratt, then the chairman of the House budget committee, tried and failed to change the law so South Carolina would be eligible for the money.
South Carolina will be the only state not to receive the federal education money, which so far has saved or created 110,099 education jobs, according to federaltransparency.gov. Instead, South Carolina’s money might be divided up among other states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, according to an Aug. 5 letter to Zais from Ann Whalen, director of policy and program implementation for the U.S. Department of Education.
The best that Zais could do was write a letter of his own -- most likely written by Ragley, or another flack, and only signed by Zais -- in which General Zais made the grandiose declaration: "South Carolina can meet our educational challenges without micromanagement by the federal government."
If Ragley wrote this, he demonstrates that despite his Ohio upbringing and education, he's a passable student of South Carolina history and has a gift for mimicry of our state's epic demagogues. His statement's grandiosity matches perfectly the defiant tone, for example, of Governor "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman in 1890: "The whites have absolute control of the government, and we intend at any hazard to retain it."
And Governor Coleman Blease in 1911: "I am opposed to white people's taxes being used to educate Negroes. I am a friend of the Negro race. The white people of the South are the best friends to the Negro race. In my opinion, when the people of this country began to try to educate the Negro they made a serious and grave mistake, and I fear the worst result is yet to come. So why continue?"
And Governor Olin D. Johnston in 1944, following the Supreme Court's ruling in Smith v. Allwright: "History has taught us that we must keep our white Democratic primaries pure and unadulterated so that we might protect the welfare and homes of all the people of our state. White supremacy will be maintained in our primaries. Let the chips fall where they may."
And Governor Strom Thurmond in 1948: "There's not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the Negro race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches."
Of course, these demagogueries are explicit about their subject matter. But South Carolina's premier message man, taught us how to say the same thing using different words: "You start out in 1954 by saying, 'N***, n***, n***.' By 1968 you can't say 'n***' — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, 'We want to cut this,' is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than 'N***, n***'."
That's Lee Atwater, Newberry College Class of 1970, which brings us back around again to Zais, who warmed the seat of Newberry College's presidency from 1999 to 2009: "South Carolina can meet our educational challenges without micromanagement by the federal government." The words are different, aren't they?
But The State added one more significant factor is its reporting today: Haley's steadfast support for her man at the state department.
Haley, who was at Daniel Island Monday for a bill-signing, told reporters she supports Zais’ position. “I trust what he is doing is right,” Haley said, according to a video of her comments her staff posted on YouTube. “He is trying to get our education house in order so that the dollars are going into the classroom and so we are not as dependent on federal dollars in a way that we don’t need to be for our kids. So I support him on that and will continue to support him on that.”
First, since when is it necessary for the governor of South Carolina to travel to Daniel Island to sign a bill? Two months after the legislature has vacated Columbia? The State and others should call this what it is, whether it's a fundraising junket, a family beach trip or a photo opportunity in support of the governor's perpetual campaign plan.
"Getting our educational house in order," Haley said: another example of an Atwater abstraction. Doing so begins with destruction of the foundation, it appears: Eliminate as many teachers as possible, and the whole enterprise will fail, and then we can build an education system entirely in the private sector, with its profit margins for campaign contributors.
Meanwhile, Zais's mouthpiece spins and spins:
Ragley said that while the state will not receive the latest federal money, school districts did see an increase in how much the state spends per student, up to $1,788 this year from $1,615 last year. The $1,788 does not include $92 per student in one-time money. Per-pupil spending is down from its high of $2,476 a student in 2008.
“South Carolina school districts have to come to realize they have to do more with less,” Ragley said.
More with less. We're already doing without a governor and a state superintendent of education, and without adequate funding. Even Pharoah provided the Hebrews with mud when he took away the straw for brick-making.
More with less is an exercise in futility, which was not lost on one of yesterday's protestors:
Duffy Allen, a retired teacher from Newberry County schools, said she knew South Carolina would not receive the money. But she came to protest anyway, because “public education is my heart and soul.”
“I do feel like it’s futile,” she said. “But it’s necessary to still make your voice heard.”