South Carolina’s results-challenged public schools have been on the receiving end of massive amounts of new money in recent years – and in addition to that recurring largess, they have huge stockpiles of reserve taxpayer cash on hand.
At last count, funding for government-run schools in the Palmetto State stood at a record $14,227 per pupil per year ($11.2 billion total) – not counting thousands more in local borrowing. Meanwhile, at last count local government run schools were hoarding an estimated $1.53 billion in unrestricted cash reserves – a number that soared by nearly $200 million from the previous fiscal year.
Still, the coronavirus pandemic has led many South Carolina school districts to shutter in-person learning – even though it seems clear at this point that school children are not spreading the virus.
Dr. Anthony Fauci – director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and arguably one of the most notorious Covid-19 fear-mongers – belatedly acknowledged last month that America should “keep the schools open” despite higher case numbers.
“The default position should be to try as best as possible within reason to keep the children in school, or to get them back to school,” Fauci told ABC’s This Week.
Many government-run schools in South Carolina are still resisting this advice, though – prompting the S.C. Department of Education (SCDE) to announce $84.3 million in federal Covid-19 relief aimed at supporting “reopening efforts.”
According to a release from the agency, the funding “can be used for four specific purposes including safety measures and personal protective equipment, hiring of school nurses, hiring of staff to provide one on one instruction and support services for struggling students, and technology equipment to support online learning.”
The funding is part of the state’s Covid-19 stimulus appropriations, and it was announced prior to Thanksgiving by governor Henry McMaster.
“Our teachers, nurses, and school staff have gone above and beyond to support students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” state superintendent Molly Spearman said in announcing the release of the money to local districts. “These funds are to be used to maintain and support their efforts to welcome additional students back safely for face to face instruction and meet the needs of those that are struggling both online and in the classroom.”
According to SCDE, the money will be doled out to districts “beginning this week” based on a poverty-weighted formula. Districts can use the money for expenditures incurred between July 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021 for expenses in the following four categories …
- School safety measures taken in response to COVID-19 including, but not limited to, the purchase of masks, gloves, wipes, hand sanitizer, face shields, cleaning solution, Plexiglass, and other cleaning equipment and supplies;
- Hire or contract for school nurse services for those schools that do not have a full-time school nurse;
- Tutoring, supplemental services, and support services to include services for unengaged students, interventionists, and after school learning extensions that prioritize face-to-face instruction focused on students with identified reading or math difficulties, and students with IEPs to address deficits resulting from COVID-19; and
- Technology purchases of devices and connectivity equipment to support online learning resulting from COVID-19.
Worth noting? The latest SCDE grants come on top of $194.7 million in previous Covid-19 relief doled out to school districts – money which the agency stated “can be used for a broader range of COVID-19 related expenditures between March 13, 2020 to September 30, 2022.”
SCDE has spent another $50 million to purchase “personal protective equipment and safety supplies for all school districts in the state.”
Add it all up and that’s $330 million in new funding for government-run schools which is tied exclusively to Covid-19 safeguards … which means school districts in South Carolina have absolutely no excuse not to provide five days of face-to-face learning each week to students of all ages within the government-run system beginning in January.
In fact, we would argue the ongoing response of glorified teacher unions to the rising number of Covid-19 cases only underscores the ongoing need for market-based accountability in education in South Carolina.
Because the existing lack of accountability within the current system is only being exacerbated by this virus …
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