We must direct more of our current education spending into classrooms.Â We must improve the educational outcomes and job prospects for our children by reducing administrative bureaucracyÂ in the school systems and ensuring that more of the money spent on education is actually spent in the classrooms onÂ teaching. Right now less than 50 cents of every taxpayer dollar spent on education in South Carolina is actually spent onÂ classroom instruction. That's just not acceptable!
While there are many good public schools in Georgetown and Charleston counties and in the state, overall South Carolina studentsÂ rank in the bottom 25 percent in most measures of academic performance, despite taxpayers spending a record $12,670 per student inÂ the current fiscal year.
The state's per-pupil expenditures are ranked 23rd highest among the 50 states. While S.C. is ranked among the top half of states forÂ public school spending, it remains in the bottom half (37th) for per-capita income levels of residents.
Total education spending increased from $3.4 billion in 1995 to $8.7 billion in 2010. In the same time period student enrollment increased just 6.3%.Â We have 85 school districts for the state's 46 counties. Each has its own superintendent, administrative staff, operational costs, and school board. This leads to wastefulÂ and duplicative spending. I will support legislation to consolidate districts so that there is only one operating in each county. This will result in a substantial cost saving.
The state Department of Education has more than 475 administrative employees in its twelve-story building in Columbia. None of them actually teach students. Almost three-quarters ofÂ these administrators make more than $50,000 annually -- far more than the average teacher. I support cuts in bureaucracy at the Dept. of Education and directing the resulting cost savingsÂ to classrooms where the funds are actually needed.
I also support school choice through the proposed S.C. Educational Opportunity Act. I believe all students in this state should benefit from a quality education without regard to which sideÂ of a school attendance zone line they live on.Â School choice programs have been shown to increase academic performance, parental involvement, and overall financial resources for education.