By Neil Mellen
Public schools are collecting more money per student than ever before, averaging over $11,700 for each child this year, though less than half of it reaches the classroom.
That’s according to a new report issued by the South Carolinians for Responsible Government Foundation. The group’s annual “Education Funding in South Carolina” research paper provides details on public school funding and spending, complied from raw data released by local districts and state agencies.
“It’s a simple readable guide to a complicated subject,” explained Randy Page, President of the SCRG Foundation. “Parents and taxpayers need to know that public schools spend just forty four cents per dollar on instruction, and that school spending grew by over $400 dollars per-student last year. Most don’t have the time to scour through hundreds of spreadsheets across dozens of complicated government websites to figure that out.”
The 10-page report includes district-by-district figures for funding in each of the state’s 83 traditional public school districts, as well as long-term trends detailing the size and scope of that money.
“The only thing more startling than the absolute size of taxpayer spending on public education is the complicated way in which it is structured,” observed Neil Mellen, Research Director for the Foundation and author of the 2011-12 edition. “With over 200 separate laws, programs, provisions, acts and regulations governing the money, South Carolina is home to one of the nation’s most complex school funding systems.”
Mellen says that complexity is part of the reason so little of the money reaches students in the classroom. “It takes an awful lot of bureaucracy just to keep up the books for all that money.”
The paper also reviews the impact of Act 388, a controversial move designed to “swap” local property taxes for additional state sales taxes to fund schools. Using numbers from the State Department of Education, the report shows that local funding for schools actually grew by $2.7 billion since Act 388 was passed, despite widespread claims the measure led to deep cuts.
The full report can be found online at www.SCRGFoundation.org.
Neil Mellen is the Communications Director, South Carolinians for Responsible Government Foundation.
By Neil Mellen