State Ups School Funding, But Costs are Up More

The South Carolina Senate has now passed their version of the budget and sent it to the House for differences to be addressed. This is providing a firmer picture of school funding, according to School District 56 Finance Director Susan Flanagan. She addressed the District 56 School Board at their April meeting last night at Clinton Elementary School. She said that among the highlights from the Senate version is a 4% increase in pay for teachers and a teacher minimum starting salary of $35,000. The Senate also passed a $15 Million increase in base student cost. Ms. Flanagan added that this amount equates to about $15 per student. She said that will help fund the state mandated teacher STEP increase, but it will not come close to fully funding that increase.

Superintendent Dr. David O’Shields commented on that $15 Million increase in base student cost. He said it sure sounds good but when looking at the big picture, it’s nothing legislators should pat themselves on the back about. O’Shields explained that the District 56 share of that increase will translate into about $44,250. Compare that, however, to the STEP increase mandated but not funded by the state. Ms. Flanagan stated that the increase will cost the district around $230,000 in salary and fringe benefits. Dr. O’Shields said he is grateful that District 56 is financially able to absorb a net loss of more than $185,000 but it is a hit that will be felt. Facing that much of a shortfall, he said, is hard but what is harder is hearing legislators boast about the $15 Million increase in base student cost as if they had somehow improved the financial situation of local schools. The superintendent said that in reality, “This hurts and doesn’t help, but they sure can make it sound nice.”